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Road Markings: What They Mean

By: Tracy Wilkinson - Updated: 30 Mar 2017 | comments*Discuss
Road Markings White Lines Broken White

Road markings are as important as road signs and give us information about the roads we are travelling on and the actions we should or should not be taking. Read on to find out what these markings mean.

White Lines

White lines are usually on the road surface and tell you something about the road that you are travelling on. Lines that travel along the road (longitudinal) inform and warn drivers of approaching situations that will need them to do something - like turn right, or do not cross. Lines that cross the road (transverse) give instructions to road users like 'give way' or 'stop'.

A broken white line marks the middle of the road. When this line becomes longer, and the gaps get smaller, this means that there is a hazard close ahead. You should not cross this line unless you can see that the road ahead is clear and you wish to overtake another vehicle or turn off the road.

Double white lines where the line nearest to you is broken is an indication that you may cross the line to overtake, providing that it is safe and that you can complete the manoeuvre before it becomes a solid white line on your side. White arrows on the road will indicate when you need to get back on your side of the road.

Double white lines where the line nearest to you is solid means that you must not cross or straddle the line until it is safe and you need to enter adjoining premises or a side road. You may cross the line if you need to pass a car parked at the side of the road, overtake a push bike, horse or roadwork vehicle, if they are travelling at 10mph or below.

Areas with white diagonal stripes or chevrons are to keep traffic lanes apart or to protect any traffic that is turning right. If the area has a border of a broken white line, you shouldn't go into the area unless it is necessary and you can see clearly that it is safe for you carry out the manoeuvre.

N.B: If the area has diagonal stripes and is bordered with solid white lines you should not go into it. If the area is marked by chevrons, you must not enter it (unless in an emergency).

Short white broken lines are lane dividers and are used on wide carriageways to determine where the lanes are. They should not be crossed unless you are changing lanes and it is safe to do so.

Reflective Studs with White Lines

  • White studs mark the middle of the road or the lanes on a wider carriageway.
  • Red studs mark the left hand edge of the road.
  • Amber studs determine the central reservation of a motorway or a dual carriageway.
  • Green studs mark the edge of the main carriageway when you are passing a lay-by, side road or slip road.

White lines that cross the end of the road you are travelling on all have different meanings and often depend on the road.


It is illegal to park on a single lane carriageway with a solid white line. (Regulation 10 Traffic Signs Regulation Act 2002.)

Yellow Lines

There are various types of yellow lines marked on the road or on the edge of the pavement or kerb that indicate waiting restrictions. They are usually used when there is a need to restrict parking to help keep traffic flowing and consistent, and to prevent people being obstructed by other vehicles on public highways.

Double yellow lines tell us that there is no waiting at any time. However, there are usually exceptions and if there are, they will be indicated by plates attached to lamp posts nearby to tell motorists what the actual restrictions are. They can vary from council to council.

Single yellow lines tend to be less restrictive. Plates attached to lamp posts will tell you the exact restrictions and you may find that you are able to park there as long as you are not doing so at a restricted time.

Loading restrictions are also indicated by yellow markings on the kerbs and again by plates on the lamp posts.

Red Lines

Seen less than the other colours, red lines ban all stopping, parking and loading. Double red lines apply at all times and single red lines apply usually during the working day. There are exceptions and they are indicated where they apply.

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[Add a Comment]
Cheeks - Your Question:
I was caught speeding ,thought the road was a 40 was caught at 37.Since have travelled up an dawn road no speed signs at all, was wondering can speed enforced by distance between white lines thank you.

Our Response:
There are no speed limit signs in a 30 zone. You can tell you are in a 30 zone if:
It's a built up area
There are street lamps
There are no signs to indicate an alternative speed limit.
SaferMotoring - 31-Mar-17 @ 11:40 AM
I was caught speeding ,thought the road was a 40 was caught at 37 .Since have travelled up an dawn road no speed signs at all, was wondering can speed enforced by distance between white lines thank you.
Cheeks - 30-Mar-17 @ 1:40 PM
Three lanes. I am in the nearside lane. Between my lane and the middle lane is a single broken line. Between the middle lane and the lane on the other side, is a double line with broken line on the furthest from me. and solid on my side. So of course I can overtake in the middle lane. I would think the cars coming towards me can cross into the middle lane. So what is the difference? One could argue that the oncoming traffic can use all three lanes, whereas I can use only two (so as not to cross the double line), but this surely cannot be the case. I cannot find the answer anywhere, including the official highway code.
Dr Willis - 15-Jan-17 @ 11:03 PM
Alecko - Your Question:
Can any one confirm if any British roads have a single solid white line along the centre of the carriageway?Thanks

Our Response:
Not that we're aware of. You might find a single white line with broken line next to it, or a single white line marking out a bus lane etc.
SaferMotoring - 1-Feb-16 @ 1:54 PM
Can any one confirm if any British roads have a single solid white line along the centre of the carriageway? Thanks
Alecko - 29-Jan-16 @ 8:54 PM
parking area/layby next to public toilets,has large area and white dotted lines marking out the width/length. the dotted lines are along where a minor road isand is two way traffic a bus has crossed over the line 5ftfrom my driver side to edge of lines. i was ou of the car and had to get back in quick as the bus driver did not see me and i just got back in before he caught the edge /whee handle is and caused a crumple and took the door trim off. if my door had been open fully it would have gone, if i had not got back in i would have gone. he states it is my fault as the door was open. he was driving a school bus with school children on who is in the right i have taken photos showing where i door would be if fully opened and closed.there were other parked cars in front and behind. this is near a school. i can find the regulations on a parking lay by by a road.
kevo - 13-Jul-15 @ 8:22 PM
@safeway. You've not described this in much detail but a solid square box painted on the roadway is usualy one of the police speed check markings.
SaferMotoring - 9-Apr-15 @ 10:45 AM
Occasionally, driving along our main road system, I come across a white-lined square box in the road. What does this stand for?
safeway - 7-Apr-15 @ 1:14 PM
Our car recently got a speeding ticket. the camera van was parked on a very small patch ground at the side of the road in front of the metal gate leading into the farmers field .It was a single lane carriageway with a continuous white line on both sides of this road .I am thinking that this van was parked on private land as the road had clearly finished and in front of his metal gate .do they have permission to issue a ticket on this basis. any takers please
durks - 17-Aug-14 @ 8:30 PM
Hi, I have had a ticket for parking in a designated disabled parking bay, but the bay was a long lay by and only had signage (which I didn't see) on the adjactent wall with no disabled parking markings at all, however 4m away accross the other side of the car park there were clearly marked and designated disabled parking bays. Looking at the markings the pay I parked in seemed to be a normal bay? Q. Does a bay need to have both a sign and a floor marking to be valid? Under what could I argue the fine? I paid to park and th emeter allowed me to pay until the next morning, but disabled parking was free? So surely the meter should not have accepted payment if there were only disabled parking allowed anywhere? Any help or advice including case references would be appreciated thanks.
Malc - 8-Oct-12 @ 10:26 PM
what does the white h line mean along the side of the road? can you park on it or are you not allowed?
simon - 14-Sep-12 @ 5:29 PM
I was driving today when the two lanes began to be merged into one. It was the left hand lane which was being merged into the right. I was in the right hand lane. There was a white arrow on the left hand lane to show traffic to merge into the right hand lane. I was already in the right hand lane when without indicating a car came from the left hand lane to try and force it's way into the right hand lane. The driver then threatened me for not letting him in but I believe the arrow showing the lanes merging shows that I was already in the correct lane and thus have priority. Who was in the right please?
Steve - 4-Sep-12 @ 5:03 PM
A picture with each description would be much better
bazza - 1-Aug-12 @ 8:40 AM
i reckonthe info is good but some pictures wold be better
jimmylad - 17-Apr-12 @ 11:29 PM
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