In one part of northern Virginia, a series of zig zag lines are used in place of traditional straight dashed lines on roads. A recent study found that this unique method of striping is more effective than classic markings, and therefore it should become the new standard for roads across the United States.

The zig zag lines were originally put into place by the Virginia Department of Transportation in order to alter drivers to be cautious of intersecting trail paths. Bicyclists and pedestrians frequently cross such pathways, and drivers are advised to be careful in the areas.

After discovering that these markings are actually more effective than traditional road markings, the Virginia Department of Transportation wants these markings to be featured in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. This manual represents the standards for designing roads in America.

According to the recent study conducted by the Virginia Department of Transportation, the zig zag markings caused people to drive their vehicles at slower speeds, and they increased the awareness of motorists, while also making them more likely to yield to pedestrians. The study also found that these driving changes remained true even after the drivers were fully accustomed to the unique designs.

These zig zag designs should represent a more cost-effective way of alerting drivers to trail intersections than most current methods. Right now, trails are often indicated by flashing beacons that are placed nearby the intersection. The zig zag idea was originally used in Europe before it was imported to North America. Currently, the only places that use the design besides Virginia are Hawaii and Ottawa, Ontario.

The design is most predominantly featured in Virginia at road intersections of the Washington and Old Dominion Trail. The trail is a popular route for both recreation and commuting within the metropolitan area of Washington D.C. Between the years of 2002 and 2008, there were 21 reported collisions involving bicyclists and two reported collisions involving pedestrians. The trail is about 45 miles long, and it connects with major roads at 70 different points.

Bicyclists and pedestrians have both said that the unique road markings have caused drivers to be more careful in the area. Additionally, speed radars in the area have shown that drivers have traveled slower since the implementation of the zig zag designs.

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