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Starting in late 2021, the California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans, launched a pilot program. In a San Diego construction zone, it painted contrasting orange and white lane stripes. The goal was to increase driver awareness of the construction zone. Not only are drivers more aware, but they seem to be driving more safely.

The lane stripes alternate from short white to short orange, then convert to all-white dashes once the construction zone has ended. 

Steve Welborn is the public affairs manager for Caltrans. “Recent survey data shows that approximately 83.18% of road users who traveled in the orange striping experienced increased awareness of being in a construction zone,” he told KTLA5. 

Additionally, the survey concluded that 72% of drivers slowed down when they noticed the contrast stripes. Almost 75% found the stripes made the road lanes easier to see after dark.

A dark orange sign with "ROAD WORK AHEAD" in black lettering with blue sky background
jakes47s via iStock

The pilot program will last until some point in 2025 when the Build North County Corridor Project is finished. The large initiative will install multiple highway, railway, pedestrian, and environmental enhancements.

Because of the positive results to date, Caltrans will look to implement contrast striping to construction zones as a statewide standard.

I’m wondering if these contrasting line colors might be used in additional use cases. For instance, in school zones or to differentiate bike lanes. While orange might be the universal construction color, perhaps blues and greens could be implemented for other zone types. Many people have trouble seeing white lanes lines after dark; with any sort of contrasting color, visibility could be greatly improved. I’d welcome the lane striping in the Midwest, anyway.