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Just how long is that line anyway?

June 30, 2012
By DAVE WERNER ( , Franklin County Traffic Safety Board

As we drive along our state and county highways, we take for granted the center yellow lines that help us stay on our side of the road and let us know when we can pass or when we shouldn't. Did you ever wonder how long those lines are or how far it is between lines? Take a guess in feet, for both questions you will find the answers later in this article. Also, just how wide, in inches, do you think the lines are? Meanwhile, here are a few more things about the lines on our roads from the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

Yellow lines are used to separate travel lanes of opposite directions, like on our two-lane roads. Therefore, you should never be on the left side of a yellow line. Yellow is also used to delineate the left hand edge of the roadways of divided highways. It is also used to separate two-way left turn lanes (common in our bigger villages), and reversible lanes. Reversible lanes are more common in large cities where a given lane may be designated for inbound traffic in the morning and outbound traffic in the afternoon. Of interest, a single yellow line should never be used as a center line marking on a two-way roadway in the United States. However, it is quite common on rural roads in Canada.

White lines are used to separate lanes for traffic going in the same direction. White lines are also used to delineate the right hand edge of the roadway - also called a "fog" line.

Sometimes you might encounter a wider line than normal. These would be used to give greater emphasis to the reason it is there in the first place. An example would be to separate an exit ramp off a divided highway from a through lane. Where you encounter the wider line, you should already be in the proper lane. Where changing lanes is discouraged, the lane line will be a solid white line. A good example of this is on Main St. in Malone, where the white line separating traffic in the same direction becomes a solid line prior to intersections to discourage motorists from changing lanes too close to an intersection. Where lane changes might cause conflicts, a wider white line is often used to add emphasis to the fact that you should not be changing lanes at this point.

Another variation is a dotted white or yellow line. These are used to guide vehicles in staying in the correct lane when turning corners with multiple lanes on all streets or roads, such as in the intersection of W. Main St. and Finney Blvd. in Malone, or in keeping vehicles in the correct position where, for instance, a deceleration lane leads to an exit. Remember, where these dotted lines are white, they separate traffic moving in the same direction, and where they are yellow, they separate traffic in opposite directions.

Okay, now that you know the purpose of the lane lines, here are the answers promised at the beginning of this article. Those dashed lines, yellow for separating opposing traffic on our two-lane roads, or white separating lanes of traffic in the same direction, are 10 feet long. The distance between these dashes is 30 feet. Bet you under estimated both measurements. As for the width, they are four inches wide.


For more articles on traffic law and safety, go to the traffic safety board's web site at: and click on "Traffic Safety Board" under departments then look for Did You Know articles under "services."



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