Middle of the Road: When White Lines Can Be Right Lines

9th February 2016 Driving Offences

I wouldn't describe myself as someone who is scared of change, especially if new approaches to well-established issues have the potential to make things better for the majority. However, there are still times when the status quo would appear to be the course of action, even though the absence of 1970s rock in my CD collection would suggest otherwise.

Take a story which has surfaced in the last couple of days about the threat to the humble white line, a familiar feature of our roads for nearly a century.

According to several national newspapers, white lines are being removed from several parts of the country as part of a pilot study to examine the role of unmarked roads in limiting speed and it is hoped accidents.

One local authority in Norfolk, one of the areas involved in the scheme, is predicting that personal injuries will fall by as much as 21 per cent. A bold forecast indeed.

Whilst I am all in favour of measures which promote safety and can reduce the number of cases in which I and other lawyers are involved following collisions of any degree of gravity, I must confess to being a little sceptical.

An argument advanced by those in favour of line-less roads is that no centre marking introduces an element of uncertainty in the minds of drivers, causing them to be more cautious and slow when behind the wheel.

I happen to think that uncertainty is not necessarily a good thing for motorists to experience. In theory and on some narrow stretches of carriageway, a lack of line might result in a feathering of the accelerator instead of putting one's foot hard to the floor.

Those of us who have ever exited the payment booths on the M6 toll road, though, would have seen drivers gunning their engines and heading along the most direct route back to the motorway, seemingly regardless of who or what is nearby. Caution and courtesy are not regularly on show.

No lines might mean hesitation but could also mean conflict under- or overtaking, veering between lanes, even more problems with indicating than currently occur and, of course, driver disputes: 'road rage' to you and I.

More than saving on a lick of paint, the changes may require extra ink to amend those portions of the Highway Code which deal with the necessity of certain types of road markings - such as broken white lines, which, of course, signify an imminent hazard.

Certain sections of public opinion continually vent at the involvement of authority. Self-determination, they say, should be a common objective.

I don't want to be contrary for the sake of it but rules, laws and yes lines are there for a reason: to avoid anarchy. One person's progress is another individual's recipe for confusion and conflict.

Maybe there is a similarity between myself and the ageing rockers to whom I was possibly disrespectful earlier in this article. I have no desire to see even more drivers become even more like the title of one of Status Quo's many hits: 'Accident Prone'.


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Hojol Uddin is a Partner and Head of Department located in Manchesterin our Driving Offences department

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