A83 lack of road markings on camera

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The national Road Safety Markings Association has recently released a report claiming that Scotland’s road marking are at a crisis point for public safety.

The report’s analysis is that the Scotland has no systems to cover the repair and maintenance of road markings and, indeed, we noted that Transport Scotland’s recently awarded roads maintenance contracts for north west and south west Scotland appeared to include no obligations for road markings.

So, aware of the number of heart-in-mouth moments night-driving on Argyll’s narrow and poorly marked roads,  we did a camera dash on a section of the A83 trunk into and through Argyll – the section from the head of Loch Fyne at Cairndow, south towards Strone Point, opposite Inveraray.

This is a narrow and twisting road, with regular sections of poor or no marginal road markings,usually above a drop to the shore.

The first photograph – top – is of the wider section of road directly after the famous Loch Fyne Oyster Bar at the head of the loch.

If you’ve had an evening meal there, with a legal single glass of wine, then drive out and turn right to go southwards, this first section of road, with an unmarked margin , a narrow verge dropping to the shore and a corner up ahead for blazing headlights to come swinging round, is not a comfortable experience.

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A little further south and into the narrow road, a newly surfaced section has been given centreline but no marginal marking – on the entrance to a chicane where being blinded by often undimmed headlights at night is common and scary.

Trucks and heavy haulage vehicles tend to move at night in these parts. Needing more than the width of their lane on corners, with powerful lights higher off the road than cars and often with lit rigs, meeting these on tricky sections with no markings on the road margins can be pretty heartstopping.

You can see only the limited space left to you as the high sided HGV takes what it needs on the corner – and you have no idea where the margin of safety is for you in a move left. You can often see  the deep carving of tyres in the narrow width of these soft margins, telling a tale of fright and lucky escape.

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Further on again, near the entrance to Dunderave Castle, is a nasty little section with rather crumbling unmarked margins and patch-ups, where HGVs have to take more than their allocated lane space, their lights bear down on car drivers – and the shore awaits, one swerve too far away.

Road markings are not high tech or sophisticated – but they are indeed absent far too often and that absence makes nervous drivers themselves unsafe and a hazard to others in many ways.

How many of us have driven at night behind a car that brakes heavily at the very approach of a vehicle coming the other way?

They do it because they cannot see the margins – because there are no markings – and their only safe option is to stop – or all but.

Do they know how often they nearly get rear-ended?

They may be a hazard but they’re not daft and they’re not wrong to do as they do.

We do need good and well maintained road markings.

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35 Responses to A83 lack of road markings on camera

  1. I’m noticing a marked lack of posts at side of road with reflectors in these photos … loads of them beside road here & are far more useful than white lines.
    Seems a factor is that roads are too narrow for many HGVs & these HGVs are destroying the white line at edge of road …. is this more of a trunk road problem as the lines are OK this part of Argyll on council maintained roads?
    I’m often driving behind cars that brake heavily at the very approach of a vehicle coming the other way in light & dark … seems mostly a lack of confidence in drivers on these narrow roads & perhaps a few with eyes that can’t cope well with night driving.

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  2. The top two images seem to be missing any cats-eyes, they might have been removed if the road was resurfaced completely and should eventually be replaced.

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    • I hope you’re right – both catseyes and edge lining are a relatively recent innovation on Argyll’s roads.
      I think this was because, with ‘modern’ A class roads in northwest Scotland having been built to a standard width of only 18′ (5.5m) – due, maybe, to the notion that vehicles on relatively lightly trafficked main roads are narrower – catseyes and edge lining tended to have a short lifespan.
      The real reason might have been that it was considered unnecessary to lavish money on the backward ‘peasant’ areas. The old ‘let them eat cake’ syndrome.

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  3. This is no more than a sales pitch by the Road Safety Markings Association whose members benefit in direct proportion to the mileage of white lines on our roads.
    Research has shown that a lack of white lines can encourage drivers to slow down and take more care as they are less confident of their position on the road.
    It’s not as bad as RSMA would have us believe.

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    • It is actually every bit as bad as they say – just keep your eyes open.
      Many drivers unable to see where the road margins are do indeed slow down – some suddenly almost stop. THhs is hardly safe practice in moving traffic. The possibility of accidents through knock-on rear-ending is very real.
      Anyone driving at night is aware of how dangerous and unsettling it is to be blinded by oncoming traffic and to have no way of knowing, in that instant, where the inside margin of the road actually is.
      We could have taken a great deal more shots of absent or almost wholly degraded marginal road markings in vulnerable spots on this one narrow section of this one road – but nipping into the road with a camera when you see a dangerous example of this is, for obvious reasons, not always possible. we will, though, continue to grab evidence of what we can.

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  4. gosh how did we manage in the 60′s when there were far fewer road markings than there are now, perhaps people should concentrate on improving their driving and vehicle positioning rather than relying on white lines and cats eyes. If your not confident enough to be aware of your position/speed on the road should you even be driving ?

    Newsie if you find your self nearly rearending other cars at night perhaps you should slow down and leave a reasonable space between you and the car ahead, its not rocket science

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    • We managed in the sixties because our cars were very much slower, most family cars had a maximum speed of less than 80mph. Brakes were ‘iffy’ and subject to ‘fade’ and steering and roadholding were dreadful in comparison to modern cars. We drove more slowly as a result. But, we didn’t meet huge articulated lorries that are wider than the lane either. Nor were we blinded by super bright headlights.
      Many people however, were killed by the deficiencies of those cars with no crumple zones and no seatbelts in accidents that would be perfectly survivable these days, even at the higher speeds we drive.

      Oh yes… we were much younger too. :-)

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  5. yes but wasnt the speed limit the same ?
    so the difference in vehicle speed shouldnt come into it
    The lorries are another matter all together and its a fact that our roads arent suitable for them but if people drove within the speed limit and anticipated the road ahead and stopped tailgating and bunching our roads would be a lot safer markimgs or no

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    • There wasn’t a speed limit on ‘derestricted’ roads, so you could drive as fast as you liked outside the 30 limits. We were limited though by cars that took 20 or 30 seconds to reach 60 mph.

      I think your last paragraph is spot on, I agree. If everyone followed those rules the roads would be safer, but I would argue they’d be safer still with good edge marking.

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    • Wrong kgv for this road and any other single carriageway in UK it’s 60 mph for a car and varies depending on size of vehicle 70 mph only applies to motorways and some dual carriageways always follow the speed limit signs. I would suggest you check the site below before your next car journey
      Know your limits speed table – Tayside Safety Camera
      Partnership
      http://www.safetayside.co.uk/cameras/know-your-limits.html

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      • Not that I care but why should such a piece of accurate and valuable info. merit a thumbs down. How many other people like kgv now know that the limit is not 70mph and how many accidents might be avoided as a result of this info.??

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        • For information, all motorways in Britain are dual carriageways; there are no single carriage motorways left.
          The national speed limit (for cars) is 70mph on a dual carriageway and 60mph on a single carriageway. I know a few people who think it is 60mph and 50mph respectively. This is one of the reasons why some people will overtake on a single carriageway (The car in front not going fast enough).
          Note: If you are sitting a driving test and someone has to overtake you because you are not going fast enough; you will likely fail the test.

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          • ‘Going fast enough’? – different people drive at different speeds, many seem to tend to drive at or near the speed limit, but surely there’s nothing wrong with driving slower as long as you give others the chance to overtake safely, and you’re not going at a snail’s pace.

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  6. Aside of the legal obligation that Transport Scotland has to maintain the road network there is aside of the tragedy of death and or personal injury, an economic calculation that should be considered when deciding to repair, replace or upgrade infrastructure network – and that consideration is that of a cost benefit analysis.

    Might not alleviate the personal pain and suffering of injury or death, but Transport Scotland use certain monetary values when undertaking a CBA.

    In 2008 the Department for Transport assessed the average cost of fatal, serious and slight accidents at £1,906,154, £218,114 and £22,683 respectively.

    Scottish average costs may be slightly different, but these numbers give an insight into why road accidents are expensive and why consideration is taken of them when undertaking an analysis of whether or not to proceed with infrastructure upgrading or not.

    Indeed, it is cynically recognised that one of the quickest ways to get a road safety upgrade is to have a number of fatalities – but that is cold comfort to those sustaining the loss of a loved one or the injury sustained by a loved one.

    In 2008 the total cost of road accidents in the UK were estimated at circa £15.8bn for reported accidents. However, with the inclusion of non reported accidents that figure could be around £30bn.

    No wonder wealthy small nations like Norway spend their money wisely investing in world class road infratstructure.

    But Norway is not alone in the quest to deliver first class infrastructure – and there are other countries and states way ahead of Britain which used to be a world leader.

    And as for the A83 in Argyll, let us pray that it doesn’t take a few fatalities to get the road markings restored.

    Ask any cogniscent Bangladeshi, Pakistani and or Indian about the costs both human and economic of poor roads and they will tell you about it.

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    • Willie – just how relevent is a Cost Benefit Analysis to safety-critical road maintenance?
      Would you tell a traffic cop that you’d done a CBA and it clearly showed that replacement of one failed tail light wasn’t a priority?
      I put it to you that CBAs should have no role in organising road repairs – this is a long established principle on the railways, just look at the investigations after something like the Grayrigg crash, where the maintenance regime had failed.

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  7. And the cost of laying road markings?

    Well it is the cost of a lorry and operatives laying down a hot mix of themoplastic, binder and ballotini glass beads with approriate traffic safety precautions.

    Yes, and you’d get quite a lot of ” white lines ” for the cost of a fatality or two.

    Cats eye replacement is a bit more expensive but again nothing in relation to the costs of fatality. But hey, there are other countries in the world that have arterial routes with very poor safety features – so yes, we are not alone.

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    • A few years ago I saw £3 million quoted as the average cost of a British road fatality.
      I know you can’t really put a cost on a human life, but this was apparently an attempt to identify the direct unarguable cost, from first call to the accident through to the funeral.

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  8. I too have been blinded by some lorries trundling along the A83 at night and it doesn’t help that the road markings are few and far between. One thing that bothers me regarding lorries having high mounted lights.
    Although not an expert by any stretch of the imagination I came unstuck with the law on lighting when I was young and fancy free when I mounted a ‘spot’ light on the roof of my car. I was stopped by the Police and reported for having a light mounted too high (It was on top of a Ford Anglia – the sit up and beg type – height about 6ft) I have just looked at the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1988 and managed to find a paragraph stating that

    (c) Vertical–
    (i)Maximum height above the ground–
    (A)Any vehicle not covered by sub-paragraph (B): 1200 mm

    Of course commercial vehicles may be excempt but I could not find any excemptions but then a serving Police Officer may be able to throw light (sorry for pun) on the matter.
    I realise that this regulation refers to ‘fog lamps’ and may not refer to ‘spot’ lights fitted way up in the ‘sky’ , if that is what they are to be called,but surely there must be some regulation to stop this light polution that beams down on us from a great height. I also assume that lorries need this additional lighting so that they can maintain higher speeds at night to meet their schedules. Do the Police not think this is dangerous or is it too much bother to take some form of action?
    Or maybe we just have to accept it and risk the inevitable.

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    • Your comment points to an important related issue.
      The drivers’ cabs of some trucks are currently carrying large neon graphics in the centre of the back of the cab behind the driver.
      These are luminously bright, attention grabbing, mysterious and a serious distraction, as well as intimidating for motorists as the truck towers over a car on a corner.
      It is surprising that these devices are not outlawed – especially as they have absolutely no road-related or driver-related functionality.
      Your spotlight seems modest by comparison. {And we can see the personalised fun of both – but they are a hazard.]

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      • Agreed but the illuminated signs in cabs or indeed above are there for pure publicity and of course serve no other purpose.
        I see that there has been no comment from the legal fraternity or traffic police, maybe they do not read these articles or maybe they know the truth and prefer to keep it to themselves

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        • Illuminated cab signs, are mostly bright blue LED’s, I seem to remember a statement in the Highway code saying that other than emergency vehicles no motor vehicle should have forward facing blue light or lights, so that would be half the HGV drivers getting a fine and points. Driving lights, if a lorry needed a wall of driving lights then they would have been fitted at the factory during the build of the cab. As all these extra driving lights are fitted by the owner after purchase, they are not, in the eyes of the manufacturer, not needed as the factory fitted lights should be all that the driver needs, and any extra, over what was fitted at manufacture should and probably are illegal under some Road Traffic Act

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          • KarlH – surely many of the trucks with an apparently excessive ‘wall of driving lights’ are timber haulers and these lights are primarily for use on forestry roads. My impression is that the drivers, if using these lights on public roads, are very quick to switch them off when they dip their headlights in the face of oncoming traffic. This contrasts with the drivers of smaller vehicles, who sometimes seem to be unaware of the need to dip their lights, particularly when following other vehicles.

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  9. One measure, however unpopular, that I would like to see taken to improve road safety in general throughout Scotland’s roads would be to have all medium to large trees felled that stand close to the roadside. It is remarkable just how many fatalities are reported as a result of a car’s impact with a tree, they don’t give. Trees also obscure vision when anticipating oncomming traffic and overhanging branches susceptable to severe elements, potentially hazzardous.
    Of course this would be a collosal undertaking, maybe unachieveable but what cost is too much when it comes to preventing or lessening the chance of deaths on our roads?

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    • Fully agree here. I see it all the time and wonder why it’s permitted. The other thing that needs resolved over the long term I suppose) are these pointless crash barriers where the road crosses a burn or goes over a bridge – usually they are constructed on the assumption that the errant car will hit it from a direction at right angles to the road,, rather than sliding off the side in the direction of travel. I’m sure something like this contributed to the Selby rail disater, but might be wrong.

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  10. “With a legal single glass of wine” – whether it’s legal or not, one glass of wine may well be enough to make some drivers a hazard to other road users, and should be banned. If you can’t do without even one glass, whilst driving a lethal weapon………….

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    • Agree – and stay completely away from anything when driving. You can feel the impact even of a single small glass of wine.
      It’s quite possible that a total ban for drivers would not be greatly opposed by the public. Most are so used to the current restrictions that the move to none would be a small one.
      The drinks industry would probably find some way of making trouble, though – as they’re doing with minimum pricing – which largely hits the cheap stuff they flog to the young binge drinkers the law is aimed at.
      Many drivers probably have one glass if they’re out for a meal and, since it is legal, absent road markings should not put them at further risk.

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  11. JnrTick. The A83 is an old road and as such it has many hazzards that just wouldn’t exist with a newer or upgraded road.

    Trees as you correctly observe are a hazzard to errant vehicles as are steep inclines, ditches, rock faces, blind summits, blind corners and all of the other myriad of features that are part and parcel of an old road.

    In the absence of money to build new roads a roads authority will often retro engineer upgraded safety features into sections of a road.

    Better road marking, additional safety barrrier, the straightening of a bad bend and so on are all part of safety enhancement that can and should be done aside of basic maintenance.

    Of course if you are a wealthy nation you can invest heavily in your road infrastructure, just as Norway has done.

    Equally, if you are a developing country like Bangladesh, Pakistan and India you will just have to accept that your existing infrastructure is a choke on economic development, and a cause of the loss of much life.

    India however, is at present spending hundred of billions on constructing a road network described as the ” Golden Quadrilateral” which network will facilitate the safe and effective movement of goods north south east and west around the country.

    Of course with declining growth, reducing standards of living, a greater disparity between rich and poor, the need to upgrade Trident at a cost of hundres of billions, the costs of wars in iraq and Afghanistan, one can see how the upgrade of the A83 is no priority at all.

    But yes, trees are a hazzard and when a designer of a new road is doing his or her design, they have to, in addition to getting the horizontal and vertical geometry right, make provision of hazzards such as trees and or rock faces.

    as to our neighbour Norway. Well they have a fine road structure, one of the highest standards of living in the developed world, a steady growth rate of circa 4% year on year, and a balance sheet many a country would die for.

    Ah, but that’s Norway!

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    • Yes William, money and priorities the key here.

      Regarding your comparisons, Norway’s inhabitants do have it good thanks to their government’s reponsible and forward thinking management of oil revenues assuring dividends for generations. These invested revenues being spent on their infrastructure, public sevices etc. instead of maintaining nuclear weapons and costly wars in terms of money and lives such as we in the UK do. Just read recently that Norway’s reliance on oil has over the last 12 years been far higher than an independent Scotland would have been. The Norwegian economy benefited from 30% of revenues from oil & gas annually with the highest contribution in one particular year being 36.5%
      Scotland in comparison has had an annual contribution from this source of 13.6%.
      I know these calculations show a quite simplistic disparity, however, even if Scotland required more reliance on oil & gas revenues than she does at the moment the figures still look promising.
      Having strayed slightly, roads and their safety throughout Scotland could and should be tackled but will remain on the back boiler for many many years to come as Westminster’s cuts are yet to bite and the effects and impacts to be fully confronted to the detriment of us all.

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  12. Jnr Tick – the “Westminster’s cuts” were of course passed on direct by the Scottish Governemtn preferring to splurge the money on the vanity projec tthat is the the new crossing over the Forth.

    As I said to you on another thread no reasonable person can blame Westminister for all of Scotland’s failings.

    If the SNP Scottish Government had not indulged their vanity and had decided instead to spend that money on upgrading all of our roads….

    But of course they didn’t. They chose vanity. Their choice and nothing to do with the UK Govt.

    Have a nice day :)

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  13. Simon, the construction of the new Forth crossing is needed. Indeed, the economic consequences of not being able to move tens of thousands of vehicles across the Forth through want of infrastructure does not bear thinking about.

    Moreover, as is now being recognised by the clowns in Westminster as the economy, tax take, and deficit reduction continue to bomb in a shrinking and or stagnant economy, there is much merit in building national infrstructure.

    Don’t like to say it for fear of getting some folks frothing at the mouth, but the billions that are being spent on Trident, and US weapons jobs, might actually be better spent building infrastructure and creating jobs.

    Upgrading the A83 might be a certain local attraction, but so could dualling of the A9, an upgrade Glasgow to Edinburgh M8, a rail link to both Glasgow and Edinburgh airports, more new hospitals and so on.

    But no, for some such policies would be the policies of the mad house. Who needs jobs and infratructure when you can build a bomb at unimaginable cost and with unimaginable devastation, if we can find someone to use it on.

    Bitter Together – you bet.

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  14. ‘Bitter Together’ is funny, but not as funny as the realisation that the most bitter people out there seems to be those in favour of Independence.
    As someone who supports the Union, I’ve not much to be bitter about, quite the opposite!

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  15. Billy biter bit a better bitter when he realised that soor plooms were something better sooked slowly.

    Put another way Jamie, I am delighted that you have formed the view that only people supporting independence and of independent mind are of a bitter disposition. Your acuity goes before you.

    Anyway, to be consensual, soor plooms all round is what you say, since a bitter a day, keeps independence away. Or so the tooth fairy would have us believe.

    But hey, who needs a cogent economic arguement.

    Anyway, not for me to make a case for the Union. The Union does it itself as the UK goes down the lavvi pan.

    So, off for a Gin and Bitter Orange now Jamesie as I warm myself in a country awash with energy but fuel poor when it comes to heating our homes.

    Good thing I’m not (N)orwegian and keep up the good work.

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  16. KarlH.
    If lorries are fitted with illegal lights then it is the duty of the traffic police to book them.
    A visit to court for the owner of the lorry and a stiff fine will soon result in these illegal lights being removed.

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  17. I don’t agree. I live and drive in the Lake District and have done so for over 25 years without a single accident of my own doing.

    I recently travelled the very area of Scotland in your report and found it to be as good a road as any other. I don’t believe we need more road markings, but instead more drivers who are have enough spacial awareness to know how wide their vehicle is and how to drive on roads which may be narrow, but are plenty wide enough for two vehicles to pass safely.

    I frequently see drivers who obviously have no idea where the near side of their vehicle is in relation to the edge of the road. So they end up driving towards an oncoming vehicle and occupy too much of the carriageway, often trading mirrors simply because they are unaware. Most of the Lake Districts county roads and many of our A roads have no edge markings.

    If you place a white line on a narrow road, you effectively make it narrower. Other drivers will see the line, not know how far off it they are and occupy even more carriageway.

    I don’t need a line to show me where the road ends and grass, kerb, lake, stonewall etc begins. I have eyes and headlights for that. If I am looking far enough ahead I can judge the best places to slow down so oncoming vehicles can pass on the narrowest roads. It’s all about the driving, not the highways agencies holding your hand.

    If I drive using my eyes to look ahead, its easy enough to see far enough ahead to spot oncoming vehicles, narrow sections which may require a speed reduction etc. My driving doesn’t require me to slam on the brakes but if I had to brake hard and the driver behind rear ended me, that is not the fault of the road, its markings or myself, but that of the following driver who failed to adapt to the conditions by driving too close.

    What we need is better drivers, not more signs, lines and lights. Also I think driving with any amount of alcohol in you, especially on the kind of roads discussed here is a stupid idea and if you fall off the road into a lake but are 2mg under the limit, it’s not the roads or road markings fault again.

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