A bright idea for Victorian roads: glow-in-the-dark line markings

Craig Duff

Posted September 15, 2022

Even the most experienced motorists can find navigating winding country roads difficult. That's why Victoria is testing photoluminescent line markings on regional roads.

The most effective way to build roads in rural areas is to simply follow the terrain - particularly around undulating hills where the road snakes up, down, and around the inclines.

That naturally makes the road harder to follow, especially at night.

Victoria’s Department of Transport (DoT) and the Australian Road Research Bureau (ARRB) have teamed up to test photoluminescent line markings and see how effective they are at lighting regional roads where the road is beyond the reach of headlights - or where headlights are pointing off the road due to tight curves.

The trial includes a 700-metre section of Metung Road, 1.8 kilometres of markings on the Bendigo Creek Trail shared bike and pedestrian path, and a section of the Whittlesea-Kinglake Road.

A DoT spokesperson said the trial is part of a $547 million road safety program.

"We are installing more than a thousand kilometres of new shoulder sealing and rumble strips across the state to increase safety on our roads and reduce the risk of run-off road crashes."

"As part of this significant program of works, we’re trialling photoluminescent line marking at select sites. Through the trial, we will evaluate the effectiveness of the line markings before considering future phases of the trial.”

Photoluminescent line markings in Victoria.

Victoria is trialling the use of photoluminescent line markings.

How photoluminescent line markings work

Photoluminescent, or self-illuminating, line markings, absorb sunlight during the day and then emit that light at night.

The same principle is used with glow-in-the-dark stickers and paint in children’s bedrooms, though in that case they typically absorb light from both the sun and interior lighting.

In the case of line-markings, photoluminescence is a relatively inexpensive way to light up a road, without the expense of having to install physical lights, which is impractical on many country roads.

ARRB’s national portfolio leader for safer asset performance, David Milling said the concept behind self-illuminating line markings involved lighting up areas of the road that aren’t in the beam of a driver’s headlights.

“ARRB sees there is great potential for self-illuminating line marking to provide safety benefits on roads with sharp crests and tight curves of a complex alignment,” Mr Milling said.

The ARRB’s interest is specifically in how the line markings perform in wet weather, as well as whether the lines are easily detectable by automated vehicle technology throughout the day and night.

“ARRB is eager to work with road agencies and manufacturers/suppliers to identify how the product performs over time, specifically how long the self-illumination is sustained at adequate levels throughout the night when installed, and after several months and years of installation,” Mr Milling said.

The application in Greater Bendigo isn’t about keeping cars on the road. The photoluminescent markings there are identifying the route for pedestrians and cyclists.

City of Greater Bendigo engineering manager Ian McLauchlan said this is the first time that the photoluminescent product has been used in Greater Bendigo.

“This new line marking product looks and functions like ordinary line marking in daylight but emits stored light which enhances its visibility when dark,” Mr McLauchlan said.

“The Bendigo Creek Trail is a very popular and well-used shared path in Greater Bendigo and the line marking is expected to enhance the useability of the path both during the day and at night.”


Car driving in forest

Driving in regional Victoria can be difficult for any driver. Image: Getty.

Regional roads a hotspot

Data from the Transport Accident Commission shows road deaths on regional roads are up by 30 per cent so far this year compared to 2021.

More than 90 drivers have died on regional and rural roads (as of August 24) out of a total of 159 traffic fatalities in the state.

Drivers in regional and rural areas also typically travel longer distances and frequently travel at night. Visibility, therefore, is a major issue, given country roads don’t have the same lane width or clearly delineated line markings found in built-up areas.

That is compounded by the higher incidence of wildlife on the road, be that native animals or livestock.

Any improvement to drivers’ ability to see the road ahead is a positive safety initiative.

During 2021, RACV invited Victorians to cast their vote for the My Country Roads survey to identify the most dangerous roads in regional Victoria.

After more than 4,000 votes were cast by the public, the results found the five most dangerous regional roads voted as:

  1. A1 Princes Hwy, Stratford to Bairnsdale (West), East Gippsland/Wellington
  2. C151 Deans Marsh-Lorne Rd, Benwerrin, Surf Coast
  3. B380 Warburton Hwy, Woori Yallock, Yarra Ranges
  4. B420 Phillip Island Rd, Sunset Strip, Bass Coast
  5. C126 Queenscliff Rd, Mannerim, Greater Geelong

The DoT and ARRB will closely monitor the performance of the photoluminescent lanes to determine if they should be applied more extensively in regional areas.

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