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The Multiple Purposes of Traffic Delineators

March 27, 2020

Traffic delineators are easy to spot because they’re usually orange and they’re often used in bad weather or when there are problems with the roadway. They can divide traffic lanes or be used as barriers during events, maintenance or accidents. One of the biggest advantages to delineators is that they are portable and can be moved in and out of sites quickly.

Giving Drivers Guidance

One of the main reasons for using lane markers is to guide drivers for portions of the road that may not be visible. Sometimes changes in road alignment can be confusing to drivers, in which delineators help. They are often used on short sections of highways where changes occur in horizontal alignment. The fact that they are portable allows for traffic control officials to move them around different places in a city where they are needed for short-term use.

Delineators are used for various traffic control reasons, usually as warning devices to promote safety. They are commonly used at sites where road work is conducted, such as striping or paving. Since these devices are usually made of plastic, they are relatively cost-efficient for cities and organizations that buy them in bulk. They are also designed to be very durable, even when hit by a moving vehicle.

As barricades, such as near guardrails, delineators are more visible than smaller cones and help alert drivers on safety and warning issues. Another common use for these devices is for lane closures ahead.

Compliance with Federal Regulations

Delineators are considered guidance devices, but must still comply with federal highway standards set by the Manual of Unified Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). That means they must contain retroreflective materials so that the bright color can be seen more easily at night. When illuminated by high beams from typical vehicle lights, the device should be visible from 1,000 feet away.

Additionally, the retroreflective elements of a delineator must have a minimum dimension of three inches. If there are two identical retroreflective elements mounted on the same delineator for the same direction, it’s considered a “double delineator.” When delineators are placed on the left side of the road they need to be white. Red versions are used for both sides of a truck escape ramp.

These poles are useful for setting up on snowy roadways to help drivers have a better sense of lane width. They are usually placed on the right side of freeways or expressways.

Placement on Roads

When setting up multiple delineators, they should be visible at least four feet above the ground. The minimum spacing between delineators on horizontal curves should be 20 feet and should not be over 300 feet. It’s important around horizontal curves that several delineators can be seen at once by drivers. The devices should be placed 2 to 8 feet outside of the roadway edge or sidewalk curb.


Local governments save money by investing in delineators, which can be used for a wide variety of reasons. Contact us at Zumar at our Arizona, California or Washington location to learn more about traffic control devices and signage for certain types of roads.

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