Study shows NCODT’s long-life markings reduced crashes on rural roads

The N.C. Department of Transportation was honored Wednesday by the Federal Highway Administration for its use of long-life thermoplastic lane markings that have been shown to reduce crashes.

Lane departure crashes cause 55% of fatal and serious injury collisions in North Carolina; nearly 14,000 took place between 2015 and 2019, according to the Roadway Safety Foundation.

NCDOT installed long-life pavement markings on rural, two-lane roadways to improve roadway delineation. These lines are more durable and better reflect headlights compared to typical roadway markings through the use of embedded glass beads in the paint. The department applied the new material to 400 miles of rural, two-lane roadways between 2014 and 2017 as part of a pilot program.


NCDOT aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of each type of long-life marking, available in different materials and sizes. No matter the type used, crash reductions were observed across all mediums –– the department identified a statistically significant 13% reduction in lane departure crashes. The most effective results were observed with the widest, 6-inch markings with standard beads; this type of marking reduced crashes by 19%.

“Safety is our top priority, and we are continuously evaluating new initiatives that will result in fewer crashes and traffic deaths,” NCDOT Secretary Eric Boyette said. “I’m proud of my team. It’s quite a distinction for their efforts to be recognized by the Roadway Safety Foundation and the Federal Highway Administration.”

The long-life markings are designed to provide up to seven additional years of reflective use compared to the standard marking’s two-year span. Though they are roughly 40% costlier to install, they reduce risks for department crews as well.

“Although long-life markings cost more initially … [i]n the long term, the overall cost for marking a roadway is less when utilizing a long-life marking,” state traffic engineer Kevin Lacy said in a Roadway Safety Foundation release. “Reducing the need to replace markings as frequently decreases the repeated exposure to pavement marking crews operating in the road. This provides another safety benefit in addition to driver safety.”

NCDOT was given a National Roadway Safety award for its study and use of the markings. Between 2015 and 2019, NCDOT spent $64 million on the thermoplastic markings on secondary roads.

Nationwide, nearly 39,000 people died in collisions last year even with a 13% decline in traveled miles due to the pandemic. An estimated one-third of deaths on U.S. highways are related to deficient roadway conditions, according to the Roadway Safety Foundation.


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