The Thin Blue Line.
Most of us have heard the expression. It’s often used to describe those few who protect the rest of us from crime and chaos.
Our police departments.
But thin blue lines are beginning to show up on roadways around the country – and in some cases, they’re running right down the middle of the road, between two thicker, yellow lines.
Is it a sign of support for local police departments? Or can it be a point of confusion – and even be a safety concern — for drivers?
“I think there are appropriate ways to show support, and people should pursue those appropriate ways,” said Greg Penny, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s District 8, which includes the Harrisburg region.
Blue lines between solid, yellow lines haves have been seen recently in New Jersey, but Penny said this is not permitted on state-owned roads in Pennsylvania.
Municipal-owned roadways are a different story, but Penny has not heard of blue lines appearing on local roads, either.
While he can only speak for state owned and maintained roads, Penny said local jurisdictions should, like PennDOT, follow the standards outlined in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, issued by the Federal Highway Administration.
“If you’re driving, you wouldn’t know what a blue line meant,” Penny said. “That’s one of the reasons for uniform standards.”
When you see a broken line, that means you can pass. Two solid, yellow lines mean you can’t.
So when a driver is heading down an unfamiliar road in an unfamiliar town and sees a third – and differently colored – line, it could cause confusion, he said.
And confusion is the last thing PennDOT wants on its roads.
But many are supporting this initiative in New Jersey, according to NJ.com.
“I see communities start to paint that blue line, and it’s a simple thing,” Mahwah, New Jersey, Mayor Bill Laforet said before the township painted one in front of the police station last week, according to reports. “It’s a chance for the community to say something about how we value the police department.”
It’s a growing trend that shows support for a profession that has been under fire.
Other communities around the country are doing it, too — just not down the middle of the road.
One San Antonio man’s Facebook post about the blue line painted on his curb, which represents support and safe harbor for police, was shared more than 88,000 times, according to qpolitical.com.
Blue lines are also appearing in the Dayton, Ohio, area, according to WHIO.
“I want to let officers know that, while they’re in my neck of the woods, I’ve got their backs. Should they be injured in a fire fight or if someone tries to attack them, they’ve got a safe haven in my home,” former Marine Corps police officer Justin Weis told the television station recently.
And in Arizona, the Union Times is reporting that resident Wayne Wallace in the town of Union has painted blue lines on the road in front of his home, as well as that of 20 of his neighbors, with their permission, to show his support.
“You couldn’t sleep at night if law enforcement wasn’t out there,” Wallace told the paper. “It would be anarchy.”