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Behind-the-Wheel

Marking the lines

Line-marking crews have begun the annual task of refreshing markings on highways across British Columbia to help provide a safer drive for motorists.

More than 30,000 kilometres of lines are marked every year throughout the province to guide drivers.

Lines are painted by independent contractors under pavement marking agreements with the provincial government. These contracts specify what lines must be repainted each year and which lines can be renewed on a lower priority basis depending on wear, location and traffic volumes.

Most lines are marked using quick-drying, water-based paints that are environmentally friendly.

Glass beads are suspended in the paint to create reflectivity for better visibility at night. The thickness of the paint and the application of beads are based on provincial standards consistent with industry best practices.

Line markings are exposed to extreme weather, winter aggregates and heavy traffic, which wears away the paint over time. The harsher the winter and the more traffic that drives over the lines, the faster the lines wear.

Line markings tend to wear off faster on new pavement because often it takes a season for the surface of new pavement to settle.

For this reason, the ministry specifies that new paving projects must have two coats of paint applied in the first year. The paint industry is constantly researching technologies that will increase durability while ensuring the paint is environmentally friendly.

New agreements were up for negotiation in 2019. The following 35-minute video was made of the contractor information session and explains the  expectations of our Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Pavement-marking crews often work outside of normal working hours and can be encountered at all times of the day or night and on any day of the week.

Signs may advise of “line markings in progress for next 8 km” or so because work is done at less than 20 k/hr and large areas can be covered in a day. Most crews also use message boards to provide information on the fresh lines and help direct traffic when it is safe to pass.

Some drivers show little patience for line marking crews or poor ability to stay between the lines. In addition to the usual rules that apply to careless drivers, there is a specific rule in the Motor Vehicle Act that prohibits driving over a newly painted line.

Newly painted lines

143 A person must not drive on or over a newly painted line or marking on a highway when the line is indicated by a traffic control device.

Penalty: $109 and 2 penalty points

When you encounter line marking crews in your travels, remember the Cone Zone and our Slow Down, Move Over rules.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/road-maintenance/pavement-marking-progress

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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