Botts’ Dots – the raised, rumbly markers between lanes on California’s highways and freeways – are on their way out, with Caltrans saying it will no longer maintain or install them.
Named after Elbert Dysart Botts, the Caltrans engineer credited with the 1950s research that led to their creation, the dots spread across the nation as a way to stripe lanes.
The dots later become known for a different benefit: The powerful feedback when driving over them that could snap awake sleepy motorists.
But Caltrans is now taking a different route. After a half-century, federal transportation officials are encouraging California to dump them. Critics say the ceramic buttons aren’t reflective, don’t really help that much, mess up autonomous cars and don’t last very long.
“It’s an older technology that’s getting phased out,” said Gaspar Inzunza, a Caltrans maintenance supervisor in Orange County. “Having a newer technology completely replace it is ideal. It’s safer and more cost effective – everything across the board is a positive.”
For years, on all Caltrans freeways and highways, every 48 feet there was to be a raised reflective marker, then a four-inch-wide stripe topped with four Botts’ Dots, and then another raised reflector.
Now the remaining dots, as many as 20 million of them, will just slowly disappear over time from state highways and freeways, although some cities still use them.
Larry Zwart, a 69-year-old Huntington Beach resident, isn’t keen on them going away.
“I think it’s a poor judgment, given that they probably saved my life, and probably many others,” Zwart said.
Five years ago, he was heading home at about 65 mph on the I-405, cutting through Los Angeles County, belly full with a turkey sandwich.
“I apparently fell asleep, and the next thing I knew, I was awakened by the vibration of going over the Botts’ Dots,” Zwart recalled. “It was a heart-stopping experience.”
He had drifted two lanes and now…