Dark was the Night

Rumble strips on a road at night.

Driving after sundown, statistics have shown, can increase the risk of having a fatal crash by four times that of daylight hours when our bodies are programmed to be active.

Impairments increase, for most of us, the later the hour gets and are magnified particularly between the hours of 10pm and dawn.

Traveling at night during a downpour when surface water pools across the road making it all but impossible, even on well-lit freeways, to delineate where one lane begins and another ends, can certainly increase the heart rate at the end of a long trip.

Were there anything remotely entertaining about such misadventures, we might forego guidance from the raised reflective pavement markers that most of us, since they were first introduced some time after 1968, have become accustomed.

For the lack of talk about them as a technology they are grossly undervalued.

The human operating system otherwise known as the unconscious, prefers avoiding verbal instructions pretty much altogether, even in dangerous situations where they appear useful, as Cormac McCarthy has previously noted, because it doesn’t trust them.

When at risk we don’t process, we react.

This is partly why rumble strips and raised reflective road markers are so effective.

They don’t divert our attention. Designed to withstand frequent heavy weights, not to mention extreme temperatures from sub zero to sweltering heatwaves, the micro prismatic lens on the reflector enhances its visibility by diverting light back to its source, making the marker visible in low light conditions.

A welcome benefit in winter for those of us who live out in the sticks and leave for work in the dark.

Different colours on the raised reflective pavement markers, of course, can represent very different things.

Yellow pavement markings, for instance, are placed on the dividing line to separate traffic.

These markers outline medians, islands and the edge of dual carriageways. Blue road markers can be used to identify water supply points and fire hydrants for fire fighters.

Incidentally, many speed humps and rubber road cushions are designed not to cover the width of the road entirely so that emergency vehicles, with wider axle spacing like fire trucks, can pass by unimpeded.

In some overseas jurisdictions the reflector will appear red when approaching it from the rear side to indicate the approaching vehicle is going the wrong way. I’ve not yet been in a position, fortunately, to verify this.

Rumble strips are another highly efficient road safety invention proven to reduce crashes when a vehicle has left its travel lane.

In giving motorists the opportunity to correct their path before they veer off the edge of the road or into oncoming traffic, they are particularly relevant at night-time when visibility is poor.

Earlier this year, installation of nearly 200 kilometres of rumble strips on the Castlereagh Highway between Dunedoo and Lithgow in New South Wales were completed after four months of work.

Data strongly indicates, according to the Australian Automobile Association, that motorists living in regional areas are almost five times more likely to die in road crashes than those living in cities.

As much as these road safety mechanisms go unnoticed, statistics do not.

Great as both raised reflective road markers and rumble strips are, especially as largely unobtrusive technology, they have little function in subduing the eye level blinding glare being emitted from the latest model Utes and SUVs.

Now that the days are getting shorter, and more time will be spent driving in the dark, averting our eyes to reflectors and road markings to reorient our vision will be an activity many of us are required to do more so than ever.

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