From your driving school experience you probably remember (at least we hope so) the different kinds of traffic signs you can find on the road, as well as what they represent. (And if you don’t yet have your driver’s license, they will probably teach you in some driver education course in school.)


These road markings include painted lines and arrows. These signs are an essential element for road safety because their function is to regulate traffic and guide and warn the driver by indicating the borders of the highway and establishing the different lanes, among other things.


To do that, the road markings adopt different shapes. Among the most common are the   longitudinal lines, which can be broken or unbroken. There are also markings at intersections, which tell drivers how to maneuver: the marks for pedestrian crossings and bicyclists, the signs for stopping or yielding right of way, others for reducing speed, lines indicating the edge of the road or spaces for parking, the red and white checkerboard areas that indicate an area for braking, the zigzag lines that warn against parking, etc.


Although you certainly knew all this, it’s probable that you’re not aware of other aspects related to road markings. Do you know when and where the first ones appeared? Do you know the meaning of the road markings in the shape of a dragon’s teeth? We’re going to tell you these and other curious things about road markings.

The first road markings in history

While there are indications that paved streets existed as long as 4000 BC, the first road markings would take a long time to appear.


Although there is no consensus about when and where the first road markings were painted to regulate traffic, some sources place the origin in the Rome of the 14th century. Specifically, during the papacy of Boniface VIII, who declared the first Jubilee Year, which led thousands of pilgrims to collapse the city’s streets. To regulate the movement of pedestrians, the authorities in Rome decided to paint lines on the ground in the shape of lanes.


A pioneering doctor

In the United States,  June A. McCarroll of California is celebrated for her initiative of 1912. Carroll was a doctor in Palm Springs and on more than one occasion when returning home after work, she realized how dangerous it could be to drive at night without anything to mark where each of the traffic lanes began or ended. That’s why she one day decided to paint a line that divided the road into two lanes. That was the first two-lane highway in the west of the United States, and shortly afterward the California Highway Commission copied her idea and implanted it on other roads in the state.


Not only white

In spite of the fact that most road markings are white, because it is the color that most contrasts with the asphalt, on occasion other colors like yellow are used, especially to designate an area that is being worked on. In some cities it is common to indicate parking areas in green or blue, while black is used to paint over markings that are no longer in use.



Special paint

The paints used in road markings should be slip-resistant and reflecting. In addition, they should meet visibility standards as well as different tests to determine their durability and resistance to wear and tear.  


Dragon teeth on the highway?

Some highways in northern Spain are beginning to use road markings in the shape of triangles, popularly called dragon teeth. These markings are placed at the start and at both sides of a highway to indicate the need for the driver to sharply reduce his speed in relation to the previous stretch of road.

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