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Understanding Road Markings

By: Sally Aquire - Updated: 13 Jul 2015 | comments*Discuss
Understanding Road Markings

As with road signs, it can be challenging to understand all of the different road markings. It is important to have a good working knowledge of what they mean, as they affect what you are allowed to do in certain situations.

Along the Carriageway:

These road markings will usually be found running along the road on carriageways.

Broken White Lines: These lines are painted down the centre of the road to split it into distinct sides. If the lines suddenly become longer with less gaps between them, there is some form of hazard coming up that you need to watch out for. Don't go over these lines without being able to see that the road is clear, or unless you need to turn off.

Double white lines with the nearest line broken: You can cross this for overtaking, as long as you have fully overtaken before the lines turn back into solid double lines.

Solid double white lines: Do not cross these lines unless you're sure that it is safe to do so, or if you need to overtake a slow-moving road maintenance vehicle, cyclist or horse rider.

White diagonal stripes: These are often used to separate lanes of traffic or to protect traffic that is turning right. If the area is bordered by a broken white line or solid white lines, you should not go into the area unless it is an emergency.

Lane dividers: Short broken white lines are used on wide carriageways to separate lanes. You should stay between these lines even when overtaking (move into another lane to overtake, rather than straddling two lanes).

Reflective road studs: These are used to help drivers in the dark, when road markings are often less visible.

White studs mark out lanes or indicate where the middle of the road is (if there is only one lane on each side of the road).

Red studs indicate where the left hand edge of the road is.

Amber studs mark the central reservation on dual carriageways and motorways.

Green studs indicate where the end of the carriageway is on slip roads, side roads and lay-bys.

Across the carriageway: These road markings will usually be found running across the carriageway.

Thick broken white lines at level crossings: You need to stop when you see this road marking.

Double thick broken white lines (little gaps): On major roads, you need to give way to other traffic.

Thick broken white lines (bigger gaps): At roundabouts, you need to give way to traffic coming from the right.

Very thick broken white lines: At mini-roundabouts, give way to traffic coming from the right.

Double yellow lines: Don't park on these lines.

Single yellow lines: If the lines are accompanied by a sign giving times, you shouldn't park or wait on the lines during the times indicated.

Double red lines: These are used on Red Routes and operate in a similar way to yellow lines. Double red lines mean no stopping at ANY time. Only licensed taxis and Blue Badge holders are allowed to wait on red lines.

Single red lines: A single red line will be accompanied by a sign telling you when you can not stop there e.g. No Stopping Mon-Sat 7am -7pm. .

Yellow lines on the kerb: Loading or unloading is not allowed during the times indicated. Passengers may be let in or out of vehicles.

Other road markings:

Other road markings to look out for include:
  • Bus stops
  • Bus lanes
  • Box junctions
  • 'Keep Clear' signs
  • Reserved parking bays
  • 'Give Way' triangles
  • Traffic lane indicators - arrows indicate the directions that each lane should take e.g. right, left or straight on.

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[Add a Comment]
@Davy. Not quite right. Sometimes the length and gap increases where the speed limit is above 40 mph. See section 4 of this document
DrivingExpert - 17-Jul-15 @ 10:47 AM
I was informed by a White lining worker that you can tell the speed limit of a road by the gaps between the White lines,ie, if the white line and the gap are the same size and distance apart it is 30 mph limit, as the gaps increase to the white lines the speed limit increases,I've looked on all the Web sites and cannot get any information about this, is the fact true.PAT
Davy - 13-Jul-15 @ 4:36 PM
@Rosey. This doesn't sound correct. Diagonal lines/chevron painted areas can only usually be entered in an emergency, they certainly shouldn't be parked on. Contact the highways department of youe county council. You should be given an explanation, or at least be directed to the relevant body responsible for instigated the restriction.
DrivingExpert - 3-Jun-15 @ 2:12 PM
we have a fairly new 7ft restriction in place in our road and where i live outside on the road they have painted white lines that start just past my dropped curb which is fine they start off small and then the next one is a bit longer the next one after that is even a bit longer these go outwards into the road its self, then there is a white line at the end of theses lines to join all the lines at the ends these are out in the road area. this goes upto the 7ft restriction area where white posts are and a small raised section nearest the curb but it is out in the road bot to far out. we have since had 3 cars crash into these white posts why not sure, but maybe because cars are parking on these white lines it restricts the view for the on coming car and driver.i have ask traffic wardens why cars park here can they ticket them he says only if they are yellow lines or blocking my drive.what is the point of doing white lines if cars can park and not get a parking fine ticket. i am sure because cars park drivers do not quite see the white posts and this is why we are getting cars crashing into them.can i be told if this parking is illegal or not. thanks hfowle.
rosey - 1-Jun-15 @ 2:13 PM
@Sierra. These will be warning signs to indicate that children use the road/area. They're most often near schools or pavements.
DrivingExpert - 27-Feb-15 @ 2:19 PM
I have recently noticed newly painted red bands appearing every 30 yards or so across the carriageway ie from curb to curb sometimes accompnied by a large painted warning triangle with a represention of school children in the centre, can you explain what these bands mean and the need.Thankyou RT
sierra - 25-Feb-15 @ 2:09 PM
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