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FHWA Home / Safety / Roadway Departure / Research - Pavement Markings

Research - Pavement Markings

Adequately maintained pavement markings improve nighttime visibility of highways and reduce the risk roadway departure crashes by bouncing light from vehicle headlights back toward the vehicle and the driver's eyes, making the pavement markings visible at a greater distance.  This provides more time for the nighttime driver to react to changes in alignment. Because the retroreflective properties of traffic control devices deteriorate over time, highway agencies need to actively manage the maintenance of pavement markings in order to ensure that they are clearly visible at night.


  • Synthesis of Pavement Marking Research [PDF 2.22 MB] – This report summarizes recent research on longitudinal pavement markings.

  • An Investigation of Longitudinal Pavement Marking Retroreflectivity and Safety – This study analyzes crash data along with measured and imputed retroreflectivity data.  It supports a positive safety effect of maintaining retroreflectivity of pavement markings.

  • Safety Effects of Wide Edge Lines – see Chapter 4 of "Pavement Marking Demonstration Projects: State of Alaska and State of Tennessee" – This retrospective study includes six total crash analyses based on the available data from Illinois, Kansas and Michigan.  Consolidated results indicate that wider edge lines are effective in reducing several types of non-winter crashes on rural two-lane highways.

  • Operational Effects of Wide Edge Lines – see Chapter 3 of "Pavement Marking Demonstration Projects: State of Alaska and State of Tennessee" – This horizontal curve study in Tennessee produced similar findings to previous research, with mixed results indicating a net zero impact in terms of vehicle lateral placement and speed.

  • NCHRP Project 20-07 Task 310: Determination of Current Levels of Retroreflectance Attained and Maintained by the State Departments of Transportation This 2013 research study collected and analyzed retroreflectivity levels of a sample of pavement markings in nine states to get a feel for the current state of the practice in regard to retroreflectivity levels of pavement markings both before and after winter maintenance.

  • Updates to Research on Recommended Minimum Levels for Pavement Marking Retroreflectivity to Meet Driver Night Visibility Needs [ HTML, PDF 659 KB ]
    This 2007 research report presents new recommendations for minimum levels for pavement marketing reflectivity. The report also presents an analysis of the limitations of the recommendations, and a plan for future research. [Publication No. FHWA-HRT-07-059]

  • Pavement Marking Retroreflectivity Workshops Summary Report: [ PDF 426 KB ]
    This report summarizes input received during two pavement marking retroreflectivity workshops sponsored by the FHWA in 2007 to gather stakeholder input for the proposed revisions to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD)regarding pavement marking retroreflectivity. [Publication No. FHWA-SA-08-003]

  • Preliminary Economic Impacts of Implementing Minimum Levels of Pavement Marking Retroreflectivity [ PDF 464 KB ]
    Researchers developed a spreadsheet analysis tool to calculate the costs associated with implementing minimum retroreflectivity levels. Using the mid-range of assumed pavement marking costs the analyses show that the economic impacts range from $0 to $150 million per year, depending on the assumptions used in the analysis. [Publication No. FHWA-SA-08-010]

  • Impact of Edge Lines on Safety of Rural Two-Lane Highways:
    This before-and-after study of edge line implementation in Louisiana showed that edge lines help drivers confine their traveling path, particularly at night, and edge lines have no or little effect on drivers’ speed.

  • The Benefits of Pavement Markings: A Renewed Perspective Based on Recent and Ongoing Research:
    This paper was developed to bring together many of the recent and ongoing research efforts to demonstrate a renewed perspective regarding the benefits of pavement markings and, where information is available, describe the benefits of various aspects of pavement markings. Published in Transportation Research Record TRR 2107.

  • Roadway Delineation Practices Handbook:
    This 1994 FHWA handbook was developed to assist design, traffic and maintenance engineering personnel in making determinations about roadway delineation systems. Topics covered include how to choose the appropriate system for a given situation; when a system has reached the end of its useful life; and how to maintain a quality delineation system.

  • Benefit-Cost Analysis of Lane Marking [ PDF 1.74 MB ]
    Pavement markings save lives and reduce congestion. This analysis of the benefits and costs of edge lines, center lines, and lane lines concludes that, on average, each dollar spent on pavement striping yields $60 in benefits. The benefit-cost ratio rises with traffic volume. The urban ratio is twice the rural ratio. Published in Transportation Research Record 1334.

  • Turner-Fairbank Photometric and Visibility Laboratory:
    The FHWA Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center's Photometric and Visibility Laboratory (PVL) enables researchers to evaluate the photometric and colorimetric properties of signing and marking materials, including fluorescent materials. Studies of human-centered systems related to visibility issues are also performed in this laboratory.

For hard copies of documents with publication numbers, please send a request to report.center@dot.gov and include the publication number and title, along with the number of copies and your mailing address and phone number. Requests will be filled based on availability.

Page last modified on August 25, 2015.
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