Adequately maintained pavement markings improve highway safety and prevent roadway
departure crashes by bouncing light from vehicle headlights back toward the vehicle
and the driver's eyes, making the pavement markings appear brighter and easier to
see and read. 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.
An Investigation of Longitudinal Pavement Marking Retroreflectivity and Safety NEW! – 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" NEW! – 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" NEW! – 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 [
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
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
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Median Barriers on Divided Highways Regardless of Access Type new
ET-Plus W-Beam Guardrail Terminal Memorandum new
FHWA Resource Charts, July 2013
FHWA Roadway Lighting Handbook, August 2012
RwD Strategic Plan, April 2013
Updated Guidance on Sign Retroreflectivity, April 2013
Clarifying Guidance on Daytime Luminance, January 2013
Guidance for the Selection , Use and Maintenance of Cable Barrier Systems, November 2012