Could white lines disappear from Britain's roads?

Road markings removed in experiments around London but safety experts are divided over result

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(Image credit: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images )

White lines dividing the road are being removed in parts of the UK to see if it makes the highway safer.

The theory goes that drivers are more cautious on roads without clear markings and more aware of their surroundings. Removing the white lines has shown that drivers tend to driver slower and with more care.

Transport for London (TfL) has already taking the markings away from several roads in trials around Croydon and Haringey and seen a "statistically significant reduction in vehicle speeds", with the average on one road falling by 8mph.

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In a report on the experiment, TfL says removing the lines is actually resulting in safer driving and shorter journey times rather than being a problem for drivers.

Drivers become more aware of each other when not cocooned into a particular lane, making for more efficient journeys. White lines breed a "psychological sense of confidence" which they allege can cause dangerous driving.

The BBC says similar trials were first carried out more than ten years ago while in recent years, some councils have intentionally left their roads unmarked after resurfacing work.

However, not everyone is convinced by the move.

Motoring and road-safety organisations have criticised the trials and argue that removing the road markings increases the risk of collisions.

Edmund King, the president of the AA, said roads "definitely" require white lines, especially for vehicles with lane-detection systems, while Auto Express reports the AA's head of road policy, Paul Watters, as saying: "Without exaggeration, it is true to say that a simple pot of paint can save lives. In particular, highly visible markings at the edge and centre of the road that can be seen on a wet night are enormously cost-effective in saving lives."

Both the AA and the RAC have acknowledged that the schemes could work on smaller, quieter roads, but warned against confusing drivers on roads where markings are essential.

Removing the lines could also play havoc in the future as self-driving cars could come to rely on them.

TfL said there are no plans for widespread removal of lines around London, but that the results had been "positive".

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