NZTA is introducing a new bright orange tape on Auckland’s motorways to help guide drivers through construction areas. It’s used in a continuous strip to help define temporary lanes.
“The tape helps reduce the risk of an incident, particularly on construction sites where driver attention is focussed on additional signage, speed limit changes and altered or narrowed lanes. Risks can be compounded by the ‘ghost’ or ‘shadow’ of old markings confusing drivers, especially if there’s sun strike, rain or if it’s dark” Steve Mutton, acting Highways Manager, says. It’s already used in Germany and has improved safety.
“Its bright colour will contrast sharply with the highway surface and other markings, and drivers follow the orange lines as they would traditional white markings,” Mr Mutton says.
The specialised tape will be used both by contractors at construction sites and by the Auckland Motorway Alliance (AMA), which is responsible for the maintenance and operation of the Transport Agency’s motorway network.
There are obvious other benefits:
- In the case of temporary markings where the road will eventually revert to its old markings, the existing markings won’t need to be removed and redone (saves money and time)
- Removing markings damages the road surface leading to potholes and other tarmac degradation (causes costs, therefore stopping this saves money). This is a particular problem where the paving is too old to waterblast
- No confusing ghost markings are present (reduces risks of drivers inadvertently changing lanes dangerously)
The main risks are whether motorists unfamiliar with the tape will become confused with it. Yellow lines are similar (however, they’re not used on motorways), so some confusion could occur if the tape is used on normal roads. Motorists could be educated using signage to indicate to drivers they should follow the orange lane lines.
The first sections of motorway to get it will be parts of the Causeway Upgrade Project on the Northwestern Motorway (State Highway 16) and the Upper Harbour Highway project on the Northern Motorway (SH1) later in January
“There are extensive changes to lanes at both sites, and it’s important we do everything possible to keep both road users and our contractors safe. We’re confident an innovation like this tape will help reduce hazards and make driving through our sites clearer and safer,” says Mr Mutton.
NZTA didn’t define exactly how much the risks reduce, or whether there have been any accidents or fatalities on Auckland’s motorway networks in the (extensive) roadworks that are currently happening. We found out independently that between October 2008 and March 2011 the AMA had six fatal accidents, three of which occurred in work zones – none of the accidents were attributed to lane markings, though. The system seems like a sensible idea; I have once or twice been caught out in the rain at night by the shadow markings that Steve Mutton mentioned.
While you think this might be a new idea that NZTA is jumping on in the interests of safety, the initial report for this was completed in March 2011! Governmental wheels rotate very slowly. There was no word from NZTA whether it expects to roll the tape out (no pun intended) throughout the rest of New Zealand.