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History of Road Markings and How they were First Designed

By: Simon McBride - Updated: 31 Oct 2020 | comments*Discuss
History Of Road Markings And How They Were First Designed

The first ever road markings that were seen in the UK were in 1918 and the first ever was the famous white line. During the 1920s the rise of painted lines on UK roads grew dramatically but it was not until 1926 that official guidelines of where and how white lines on roads should be used, were introduced. The official word, on what white lines should be used for was carried out by the First Ministry of Transport in 1926.

During the next decade the 30s white lines were used as “stop” lines, at junctions and the traffic flow was controlled by police or traffic lights at these intersections on the road network.

By 1944 the UK had Cats Eyes for nearly ten years and white lines had more strings to their bows. They were now being used to keep traffic in correct lane. It was also used at this time to help motorists to define the boundary of the carriageway they were travelling on and those entrances to side roads and lay-bys.

The 1950s saw the arrival of the yellow lines and the restrictions on waiting, loading and unloading. By 1959 the UK Government had decided that double white lines were to be used to control overtaking. Even more road markings were introduced in the 60s with the yellow box junction, these appeared across the UK at busy road junctions to ease the flow of traffic. In 2002 the yellow line system was adapted for the new millennium.

Every road marking in the UK provides information and guidance for the road-user. These markings are painted in a similar style, which means that road-users will easily recognise them when approaching a stretch of road that has markings on it.

Design of Road markings

The Highways Agency claims that any road markings, which are covered under the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions may be legally painted onto the UK road network.

In the UK there are three ways to mark the roads with information, one way is to paint the information onto the surface another is by applying thermoplastic road markings or temporary road marking tape can be used.


The road markings are usually made with a special spray machine, it is then applied to the road at a slow pace. Painting the roads is a low cost option but it doesn't offer the grip that rival systems do. Another disadvantage is that painting is extremely hard to remove.

Hot Applied Thermoplastic Road Markings

Advantages include good durability, transfer from machine to road quickly low cost and have a high skid resistance. This form is used throughout the network as a permanent marking.

Temporary Road Marking Tape

When transferred onto the road it is durable for at least three months. It offers good skid resistance however it is quite expensive and is slow to apply due to the nature of having to lay it. Its biggest disadvantage is that it will not stick to the carriageway in wet or cold conditions.

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My dad worked for prismo Road marking for 34 years he travelled all over Scotland doing this twice he and his crew were over in Saudi Arabia to do work on there roads doing the thermoplastic road marking I wish I could find out if he was the first to do this in the UK
Al - 31-Oct-20 @ 6:53 PM
My great grandfather Andrew MYLES worked for R J Clare in Liverpool and is credited on their website as helping to create the thermoplastic paint. Is there any way to confirm if this is correct
Sue - 16-Sep-20 @ 4:16 PM
These days glass beads are added when cold painting stripes or lines onto roads and parking lots to improve night visibility when driving at night.
www.houstonparkinglo - 30-Oct-19 @ 9:30 AM
I didn't know that most road markings are to direct overtaking. My wife and I have been doing some research on the way traffic is directed lately so we can be better drivers and we found this article fascinating. Thanks for writing it!
Art Demarco - 19-Apr-18 @ 4:59 PM
What is the meaning of the white square markings occasionally seen in the centre of the lane.
Gil - 23-Nov-13 @ 3:45 PM
Living in Greece since living in Bristol UK. I am amazed how in about 6weeks white lines on highways go grey/black. Then simple white line machines come out at midnight to repaint. Whether new or older surfaces, white lines are not seen. What do think the problem can be? I am interested to make a project about this poor quality situation. I know, this is Greece !... I need to get samples of all of it. Maybe they don't use correct asphalts and paints. This could develop into great business to upgrade. Your assistance will be appreciated. Maurice Ashford. Chairman. Consultant Engineering EU.
Mar - 25-Sep-13 @ 4:04 PM
what are the ingredients in thermoplastic road markings and are they harmful to health, especialy the red and yellow dye.
Tel. - 1-Feb-13 @ 5:55 PM
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