Motorists are seeing orange in one stretch — and may soon see it everywhere

Q. Honk: While traveling on the 5 Freeway through the Carlsbad/Oceanside area, I saw orange and white stripes dividing the lanes. What are drivers to assume this means?

A. The mention of “orange and white” – always – reminds Honk of Good Humor’s Creamsicles, those tasty white-ice-cream-on-a-stick treats coated with an orange exterior of sherbet.

Seeing orange stripes where one would expect white ones may soon remind motorists to be more careful.

“That is a pilot program to make drivers aware that they are driving in (a) construction zone and to maintain a (reduced) 55-mph speed limit,” Steve Welborn, a Caltrans spokesman for that area, told Honk in an email. “We’re testing different patterns on each side of the freeway to see which is more effective. There will be a survey that goes out to the community after a few months of implementation.

“I should note that we have not yet completed the striping,” he added. “We’re finding that some of the materials we’re using are not reacting well to certain weather so we are trying a few different methods. But that is why we test.”

This is the first time this strategy has been tried in the state. Wisconsin, Texas and Kentucky have used it, and so have Canada and New Zealand.

Construction crews in that stretch of San Diego County are extending the carpool lane in each direction.

Q. Hi Honk: You recently explained that Caltrans is now painting black borders around the white stripes that divide freeway lanes in at least some places where there is concrete paving. Whether you knew this and left it out of your comment for brevity, or whether you didn’t realize it, they are doing it for the “lane-keeping” driver assist feature found in many newer cars that help drivers stay in their lanes. Personally, I think it would be better if they put wires down the middle of the lanes and equipped these newer cars to follow them when present, but the black borders around the white lines certainly are a help.

– Thomas E. Locke, North Hollywood

A. For decades, Honk has figured it is only a matter of time until we hook up our vehicles to a system somewhat like the San Francisco cable cars, where cars and trucks grab onto some underground cable or track, punch in our destination, and lean back and sip coffee while reading Craig Johnson‘s wonderful tales of Sheriff Walt Longmire or some other terrific book.

Until Thomas’ or Honk’s vision comes true, motorists will have black-bordered white (and perhaps orange) stripes.

Honk was aware the black borders had a purpose or two beyond just helping all motorists see the white stripes, and he thanks Thomas for pointing that out.

Instead of just pontificating, Honk went to Caltrans to ensure Honkland residents got the best info.

“The contrasting lane stripes with white bordered by black provides more visible markings with wider widths and higher retro reflectivity, which can increase the distance with which the lines are detectable and may improve a motorist’s ability to perceive the marking in their peripheral vision,” Jim Medina, a Caltrans spokesman, told Honk in an email.

“This is a particularly helpful safety measure during inclement weather and evening hours when there may be little to no illumination from overhead lighting.”

That may be the primary reason, but there are other key benefits.

“These enhancements improve lane keeping,” Medina added.

Also, in the past Honk has been told that the 6-inch-wide white striping will help the in-the-testing-phase autonomous vehicles.

To ask Honk questions, reach him at He only answers those that are published. To see Honk online: Twitter: @OCRegisterHonk