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Pavement lines important to orderly traffic, safety

November 10, 2012
By DAVE WERNER ( , Franklin County Traffic Safety Board

The yellow and white lines on our streets and highways are helpful to us as drivers to define where we are supposed to drive. However, not all drivers know exactly what all the lines are for.

The most important safety feature about lane lines is that "yellow" always separates lanes of opposing traffic. That is why the lines in the center of our two-lane roads are always yellow, whether they are broken, indicating that passing is allowed where it can be done safely, or solid, where passing is not allowed. If you ever find yellow on your right, then you are driving in a lane meant for traffic going the opposite direction.

On a divided highway, you will find a single solid yellow line to the left of the inside driving lane. This shows that anything to the left of this line should be traveling in the opposite direction, as is the case for traffic on the other side of the median.

Another use of a yellow line is to designate a two-way left turn lane (TWLT), very common throughout the nation and Canada as well as in our Upstate cities and villages. In this case, the TWLT lane is designated by solid yellow lines on the outside and dashed yellow lines on the inside, as shown in the accompanying picture.

In the United States, a single solid yellow line is never used as a center line marking on a two lane roadway. However, in Quebec and Ontario, you may see this used on a narrow rural road that normally does not have a high volume of traffic. Where this is the case, passing is not allowed.

White lines always separate traffic traveling in the same direction. They are used to separate lanes of travel going in the same direction on multi-lane streets and roads. A single white line is also used to mark the outside edge of the right-hand travel lane, referred to as a "fog" line. Therefore, anything to the right of this line is considered "shoulder" and should not be driven in.

Another very common use of a single solid white line is to mark a section of a multi-lane street or road where lane changing is discouraged. This is common in Malone on Main Street prior to a signalized intersection. Although lane changing is permitted across a single white line, you should be in the desired lane before the broken line becomes solid.

Occasionally you will come upon a double solid white line. In this case, it is illegal to change lanes. Examples of where this marking might be found are in tunnels and over bridges where multi-lanes exist in each direction and lane-changing could be dangerous.

Dotted white lines are used under certain conditions, such as prior to a lane-drop or to guide vehicles through large, multi-lane intersections.


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 artcles under "services."



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