In the fall of 1917, June McCarroll was driving to her office near Indio, California. The road would later be part of U.S. Route 99 and is now Indio Boulevard. A truck ran her off the road. She and her Model T Ford found themselves face to face with a 10-ton truck on the paved highway. She chose the sandy shoulder to the right instead of the truck to the left. That gave her the idea of having a painted line down the center of the pavement as a safety measure. At the time, McCarroll was a nurse and later a physician.
She offered her idea to local officials without success. Then she decided to paint the line herself, working through the Indio Women’s Club and other women’s organizations. Some claim her paint was made with cake flour. Painted markings on California roads became law in November 1924. The California Highway Commission adopted her idea and painted 3,500 miles of lines across California. Later the idea expanded nationwide.
Others claimed the idea of a painted line in the center of highway pavements. The Federal Highway Administration awarded its recognition to Kenneth I. Sawyer of the Marquette County Road Commission in Michigan for painting the first highway pavement dividing line. He implemented the idea only a few months earlier than the accomplishment of Ms. McCarroll. He placed the line on ‘Dead Man’s Curve.”
The State of Michigan has recognized Edward N. Hines for painting the first centerline on a city street in the Detroit area in 1911. Apparently, he won the fight about who painted the first centerline. He was the chairman of the Wayne County Board of Roads. His idea came from a leaking milk wagon that left a white trail along a road.
The lines marking roads expanded over the years. There are many variations beyond center lines. There are lines to denote no-passing zones, to mark lane width on multilane roads and to mark edges of pavements. Lines mark “stop” locations at intersections. Numerous lines convey rules of the toad.
For all of us drivers, the highway lines have become our friends!