Glow-in-the-dark roads are being tested in east Victoria, and experts predict the technology could improve road safety.
- Deaths on rural roads in Victoria are up 30 percent year-on-year
- 46 percent involved vehicles that went off the road
- A civil engineer says the photoluminescent markers could be a cost-effective way to address the problem
Bairnsdale-based Tarmac Linemarking worked with OmniGrip Direct and VicRoads to install photoluminescent line markings along 700 meters of Metung Road in May.
The markers absorb sunlight, emit stored light when it’s dark, and aim to illuminate roads with curves, intersections, or no street lighting.
Cloudy days will dull the glow, but the markings remain visible due to a white reflective base, similar to regular road markings.
The project is part of the Victorian Government’s $457 million Road Safety Program which is evaluating the cost-effectiveness and road safety benefits of the road markings.
Remote roads benefit
Tarmac Linemarking Operations Manager John Emanuelli said the markings are particularly beneficial on remote roads.
“I think the Great Alpine Road, certainly there are places that could be used, your road to Falls Creek, Mitta Mitta, Omeo Highway,” he said.
Similar projects have been tested internationally – parts of a motorway 100km south-east of Amsterdam in the Netherlands have been painted with photoluminescent powder.
The 2014 trial was criticized for the markers’ sensitivity to rain and uneven lighting conditions, but Mr Emanuelli said things were different at the Metung.
“I’ve been back many times in different weather conditions to see how it wears and how bright it is and it works pretty well,” he said.
Mr Emanuelli said the markers could have a variety of uses and would also benefit pedestrians and boat ramp users.
“We had a lot of people who wanted offers for different applications in different areas,” he said.
“We’ve been in talks with most of the counties in the region about getting this on the road.”
High road tolls
The death toll on rural Victorian roads is up 30 per cent this year compared to 2021.
46 percent of these deaths occurred due to vehicles going off the road.
La Trobe University civil engineering expert Long Truong said photoluminescent road markings would improve visibility and help drivers stay centered in their lane.
“I believe that the technology would improve traffic safety in certain situations – for example, when we have very complex road alignment, direction changes, tight corners and the like,” said Dr. Truong.
“If we can identify the critical location where this can have the greatest benefit, I would say it’s a cost-effective solution since we don’t need to build actual street lighting infrastructure.”
The road markings could also reduce light pollution by eliminating the need for streetlights on rural and remote roads.
Lisa Palma, chief executive of Wildlife Victoria, said artificial lighting is damaging to wildlife.
“It can affect breeding cycles of species, expose endangered nocturnal animals to predators, affect migratory patterns of birds and consequently have longer-term impacts on species,” she said.
“While it is important that roads are very safe, we also want to ensure that wildlife can go about their normal business without being affected by light pollution and putting themselves and drivers at risk.”
The technology is being trialled at two other locations, including a section of the Whittlesea-Kinglake Road and the Bendigo Creek Trail, where 1.8 kilometers of line markers have been installed on the shared user trail.