Jan 26, 2024

Drivetime Mahatma Highway stripes lose their glow in rain, wear out with time

Dear Mahatma: Why can't people who paint the highway lines come up with a paint people can see when it's raining and dark? -- Kelly

Dear Kelly: You asked, and so are fixin' to get more about pavement stripes than any civilian wants to know.

We asked this question of the long-suffering David Nilles, who speaks for the Arkansas Department of Transportation. His burden, of course, is dealing with us.

The process, he said, begins with striping trucks that spray down the yellow or white lines, after which the paint is topped with tiny glass beads about the size of a grain of sand.

Fascinating, doncha know?

The glass beads reflect headlights. When water is on the beads, light can't penetrate and reflect as well as in dry weather.

Nilles then enlisted John Brown, the striping superintendent in the maintenance division, to further explain. To our knowledge, this is Brown's first appearance in this space.

Brown said 3M Company, which produces these beads, has other products it claims help with wet nighttime driving. Those products are "extremely expensive." Another option is raised pavement markers. They are often plowed off every winter as ArDot does the highly popular job of getting snow off the highways. After which the raised pavement markers must be replaced.

If it's not one thing ...

Back to Nilles.

The life of a paint stripe depends on traffic volume, he said. The more traffic, the faster the stripe wears out. A stripe's longevity also can be affected by the width of the travel lane. If it's a narrow or curved road, the paint wears out more quickly because vehicles tend to cross the stripes more often.

On an interstate, which has wider lanes, he said, stripes last longer because vehicles don't run over the markings as much. On narrow roads, the stripes may have to be painted every year. On wider roadways, the stripes can last up to four years.

Vanity plate on a beautiful black Camaro that caused our heart to race: GONEMAD.

Dear Mahatma: You asked if readers could translate the vanity plate "NKMLRAT." That plate belongs to my zoology-loving son and refers to one of his favorite animals, the naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber). They are fascinating animals. You also let me have the satisfaction of Mom being right, since I told him several months ago that he would end up in your column. Thank you for that. -- Jane

Dear Jane: You're welcome.

Many readers tried. Some figured it was some kind of teen-age mall rat. A few actually figured it out, and said there was even a song about the critter. Sample lyric: "What is that freaky thing?"

Who knew?

Traffic questions answered at [email protected] Questions about genus and species, 5 cents.

Print Headline: Lane lines lose glow if wet, worn

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