Road lines in NC are hard to see in the rain. How has NCDOT tried to fix them?

·2 min read

Rainy days in North Carolina can create hazardous driving conditions.

Wet roads and streets can put drivers at risk of hydroplaning, make road markings harder to see, and increase the likelihood of crashes.

Lane-departure crashes comprise more than half of fatal and serious injury crashes in the state, according to the Roadway Safety Foundation, an organization that works to reduce fatalities and serious injuries attributed to roadway conditions.

To make roads safer, the N.C. Department of Transportation recently began striping them with markings that are more visible at night.

Here’s what to know about the kind of markings installed on roads in North Carolina and why some are hard to see when it rains.

What kind of markings are used on NC roads?

From 2014-2017, lane markings featuring glass beads embedded in plastic paint were applied to 400 miles of rural, two-lane roads in North Carolina, according to NCDOT.

When they are properly installed, the beads can redirect light back to their source – the headlights of a car – through a process called retroreflection, noted by 3M, the industrial, safety and consumer products company. During this process, drivers are able to see the light that appears to be coming from the striping.

A study conducted by NCDOT found that the new paint – which can last up to five years longer than traditional roadway paint – led to a 13% reduction in lane-departure crashes, NDOT said. The department said it plans to continue to invest in long-life lane markings.

Why are pavement markings hard to see in the rain?

While lane markings with glass beads are easy to see at night, rain can make them invisible to drivers.

When it rains, the glass beads are covered in water, which causes headlights to bounce off the wet surface in many directions other than back to the driver. This makes it nearly impossible to see, according to 3M.

Wear from tires and snow plows can also affect glass beads since they are no longer reflective after they break.

Tips for driving in the rain

NCDOT offers the following tips to keep you safe on wet roads:

  • Slow down and allow more time to reach your destination

  • Be ready for sudden stops or changes in road conditions

  • Allow at least twice the normal following distance in between vehicles

  • Signal for turns and brake earlier than usual

  • Turn on your headlights when using your windshield wipers

  • Use your defroster to increase visibility