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What works in California doesn't always work in Oregon

I recently took a trip to California and was amazed at how helpful the roadway reflectors were when driving at night. I live in a rural part of the Rogue Valley and have found that the majority of the roads are incredibly dark and dangerous to drive at night. Why doesn't Jackson County have a good roadway reflector system on all its streets and roads?

— Richard R., via email

The grass is always greener, er, the roads are always lighter on the other side of the state line.

We're not sure where you were in California, Richard, but we can speak to the system in our own county.

Jackson County could use three types of roadway reflectors — stripes, raised pavement markers and roadside markers, or delineators, said John Vial, Jackson County Roads and Parks director.

Except for a few low-volume, narrow roads, most Jackson County roads have stripes, which are reapplied annually. Some of the wider roads also have fog lines. Little glass beads in the paint reflect light back to the driver, making the lines brighter at night.

Raised pavement markers are not used on county roads for three reasons.

"One, we think a stripe is sufficient," Vial said. "Two, it's a cost issue. They are not cheap to install and maintain. And three, the biggest reason, after a good snow storm, road plows will come through and knock them off the road."

Delineators — reflectors mounted on posts along the roadways — are used more often along major interstates where there is a paved area along the fog line, followed by a wide gravel shoulder.

On county roads, there is no shoulder, and on many roads, there's a ditch. That raises two issues, Vial said: If delineators are placed too close to the road, drivers hit them. If they are put on the opposite side of the ditch, drivers think there's a shoulder or "recovery" area and wind up in the ditch.

"We review accident and crash rates on county roads regularly, and currently we are not seeing patterns that identify a need for more delineation," Vial said. "We acknowledge that county roads are dark, but if you drive safely, they should be easy to navigate."

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.