Marking out a safer future

Road safety is currently a hot topic, with the government now reviewing the consultation responses to its post 2010 road safety strategy ‘A Safer Way’

RSMA was to the fore in its response to the consultation because of its strongly held belief that greater utilisation of enhanced road marking products will facilitate improved safety on our highway network, whilst unleashing the potential for a substantial reduction in the CO2 emissions related to the operation of our highways network.

The goveverment´s approach
The RSMA welcomed the ‘A Safer Way’ publication and the thrust of its proposals to continue to drive down the level of ‘Killed and Seriously Injury’ (KSI) accidents on the UK road network and furthermore supported the aims of the strategy to see continued and continuous improvement in the safety of the UK road network. We believe that a safer future on our highways will be accomplished by a coherent set of initiatives that balance better driver education and behaviours with infrastructure improvements that provide clearer guidance and information to drivers and a more forgiving road environment where mistakes do not carry a death sentence. Amongst the proposals we have submitted were:
Actions to strengthen both the written and practical element of the driving test to specifically ensure that drivers understand the messages given by horizontal and vertical road signage and can better evaluate the road environment and circumstances they may find themselves in. Consideration should be given to requiring all new drivers to also experience driving simulation exercises that mimic the consequences of speeding in urban and rural roads; helping them identify the lack of control they can have at speed.
Increased adoption of passive safety measures such as better designed crash barriers and lighting columns where such items are necessary. We support the use of technological improvements such as interactive speed signage, however, would caution that technology cannot and should not be seen as a panacea, as frequently cost considerations result in reduced returns than those achieved through the coordinated use of existing products and technologies.
Naturally, as the road marking industry we also had some substantial recommendations for improvements in this particular part of our infrastructure, especially in respect to where we believe that the full road safety potential of road markings has not been fully exploited by road managers at all levels, and that advances in road marking performance provide substantial potential for even greater improvements in road safety.

The independent view
It should not come as any great surprise that the industry body for the road marking sector is recommending better and more effective use of road markings, however, it is not just our opinion and professional expertise that convinces us of the accuracy of our proposals, but also the assertions of respected independent professional people and organisations. In recent months the following opinions have been expressed:
“Improved roads are those where there has been a significant reduction in the number of fatal and serious collisions over time. Only two per cent of the roads analysed this year qualified.
Consultation with road authorities on those road sections listed show that the majority have been subject to basic measures such as improvements to existing signing, lining and markings. Seven of the 10 road sections have also resurfaced parts of the route, implementing high-friction anti-skid surfacing particularly on bends and at junctions. Changes to the way in which junctions are designed and laid out have also played a role.”Source:
“More than half of Britain’s A roads have failed to be rated as safe in a study of 28,000 roads and motorways. A quarter of motorways also rated poorly, the European road assessment programme (EuroRAP) found. Single carriageway A roads were rated to be the most dangerous, with experts calling for better signs, lines, junctions and road surfaces.” Source:
Spokesman for the Institute of Advanced Motorists Peter Rodger told the BBC News website there were lots of things that could be done to improve safety through good design.
“If you’ve got a reasonably wide single lane road with a junction, you can paint a section in the middle solely for people who want to turn right,” he said.
“That way they’re removed from the main flow of traffic.” Source:
Whilst the benefits of better marked roads and enhanced performance specifications are acknowledged by many, we are concerned that to an extent, some of the lessons learnt many years ago regarding the positive impact of markings systems such as rural edgelines have been ‘forgotten’ as budgets have come under pressure and experienced staff have been shed by specifying organisations.
Furthermore, there is evidence that extended maintenance cycles, seeking short term financial savings, often of relatively low value (when compared with the cost of a KSI accident), further under value the safety impact of well marked roads. The seductive nature of new technology also encourages specifiers to often abandon proven low-tech solutions for the glitz of more expensive ‘state of the art’ approaches, often of questionable sustainable value.

RSMA proposal
Road markings have a proactive role to play in meeting the priorities of the post 2010 strategy and address a clear number of the priorities areas identified by the Department for Transport within its consultation document. It was with these views in mind and with a wealth of evidence and information that RSMA have proposed the following actions to the Department for Transport:

Enhanced Road Marking Performance through improved specifications – That in order to unlock the full road safety potential of road markings for centre and edgeline markings, the Department of Transport should require specifiers to stipulate a minimum performance requirement of 150mcd for retro-reflectivity and 55SRT skid resistance on all unlit or dimmed roads and all high speed roads, throughout the UK.
Reduced CO2 emissions from the operation of the highway network – RSMA also supports the use of enhanced performance road marking materials as a mechanism to aid highways authorities in attaining CO2 reductions from the use of lighting, facilitating the dimming or extinguishing of lighting, without compromising road safety.
Improved use of wet night visibility products across the network – RSMA recommends that the Department for Transport produces formal guidance for all highways authorities into the use of high performance wet night road marking materials and that it researches further the use of such markings in Spain, with a view to identifying how such materials could positively contribute to the KSI accident reduction targets set in a ‘A Safer Way’.
Formalisation of road marking maintenance requirements for all highway authorities – The RSMA believes that the use of well maintained centre and edgelines have clearly been evidenced to reduce accidents on UK roads in general and rural roads in particular and that the government should establish a formal performance and maintenance requirement for such markings through extension and enforcement of its current maintenance standard TD26/07.
Wider road markings
Adoption of wider road markings in line with independent research findings – The RSMA believes that centre and edgeline markings on unlit rural roads are essential to the safety of our highway infrastructure and that the optimisation of their safety role can be achieved by following the findings of the COST 331 research project and implementing a 150mm wide requirement for such lines as part of the strategy to reduce the KSI level on these roads.
Wider lines offer enhanced guidance and lane discipline, especially in adverse weather conditions and combined with the enhanced level of road marking performance recommended by RSMA would have a dramatic impact on reducing accidents, especially on rural roads.
Revision of regulations and specifications relating to the spacing of road studs – The RSMA recommends that a review is conducted into Regulations and Specifications governing the spacing of road studs, in particular circumstances, on our highways network in order to identify whether a reduction in spacing could enhance their role in guiding and alerting drivers through/to hazards and thereby help to reduce accidents.
Require highway authorities to report on annual road safety plans and ring fence budgets – Against the backdrop of uncertainties in public capital and revenue funding and in order to protect road maintenance budgets that directly impact upon road safety infrastructure, the RSMA believes that government should require all highways authorities to report annually to the proposed Road Safety Delivery Board, on their maintenance and safety budgets, and furthermore that government should move to ring fence such budgets.

George Lee & the RSMA
George Lee has been national director of the Road Safety Markings Association (RSMA) for the last 13 years, during which time it has grown to be the largest specialist trade association in the Highways sector, representing companies that supply and install in excess of 90 per cent of the road markings in the UK. The Association has been active in promoting infrastructure road safety for over 30 years through the development and implementation of higher standards and specifications for road marking activities. A full version of the RSMA consultation response to ‘A Safer Way’ is available at

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