Thursday, April 28, 2016

Lines on the Road

The last few stubborn patches are gone finally, but in a way it is sad to see the snow go.

Snow covers more than just autumn’s decay. It hides for a few winter months the flaws in our society, one of which is our continuing disrespect for nature.

The melting snow reveals roadsides littered with bottles, cans, coffee cups, cigarette packages and other detritus tossed out vehicle windows. The amount of roadside litter in Haliburton County and elsewhere truly is discouraging. It makes you wonder how we ever will fix the world’s environmental problems when people continue to use our roadsides as garbage cans.

That’s old news, however, and continuing to write about it is beating a dead horse.

A newer concern about the roadways is the deteriorating state of line marking. Many municipalities appear to be delaying, or even giving up, on road marking. Road dividing lines, intersection stop lines, and lane turn markers have faded to almost nothing in some places where I drive. It is a way for some municipalities to save money.

Municipalities have been stretched for money as Ontario governments have continued to download service costs on them. (For instance, check your tax bill and see how it has increased because of downloaded Ontario Provincial Police costs).

Road line marking has been stopped in some areas of Britain. It is an experiment to test whether roads without dividing lines make drivers more cautious. Some data shows that removal of white dividing lines slows the average speed of vehicles by up to 13 per cent.

There is much argument about that. One side argues that self-enforcing schemes such as removing lines are the best way to reduce speeding, especially where policing budgets are cut. Others say there is no proof for this and that clearly marked roads save lives.

Ontario has reviewed the no-line experiments in England and has no plans to change its road marking system, says Bob Nichols, senior media liaison officer for the Ontario transport ministry.

Pavement markings serve an advisory or warning function, and may be used to complement other traffic control devices,” he told me. “There are concerns that the removal of pavement markings will affect those with ageing visions and impact certain safety technologies in modern cars that rely on pavement markings to warn drivers if they’re drifting across a lane.”

Nichols also said that road painting has not been cut back on roads and highways maintained by the province.  Most lines need to be repainted once a year and the province has not changed the frequency of line painting.

Also, there have been rumours that Ontario has stopped using glass beaded pavement paint, but Nichols says this is not true. Glass beads in road paint are the only way to meet minimum reflectivity standards, he says.

Ontario this year began testing AVs (Automated Vehicles), self-driving vehicles that use artificial intelligence, digital gadgets and presumably road markings to keep them on the road. AVs sound a bit scary but they can’t be much more dangerous than some of the lunatics you see behind the wheel these days.
The repainting season begins soon, once roads are clean and free of sand and salt residue and the temperature is at least 10 degrees C.

Hopefully this year there will be fewer impatient drivers who insist on passing road painting trucks. They make a lovely mess when they drive over freshly painted lines and don’t seem to mind having yellow or white paint splashed onto their vehicle.

Meanwhile, here’s a little road test question: Is it illegal to cross a solid double  centre line?

Not in Ontario, which is the only Canadian province or territory where it is not a traffic offence to pass on a solid double line.

Solid double lines are warnings placed before curves, hills and other highway vision-limited sections where an oncoming vehicle might be met too suddenly to avoid a collision.

So you can pass without fear of being pulled over by police, but it’s a really dumb idea.


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