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What are Traffic Delineators & Channelizers Used For?


In traffic control, there are a number of different devices that are designed to help make the roads safer. Despite seeing many of these objects on a daily basis, some people might not be familiar with the technical names for the various signs and object markers used in traffic control or what their exact role is in controlling traffic and providing a safe flow of things. Delineators and channelizers are a big part of traffic control, and they come in many shapes and sizes.

Controlling the flow of traffic on a temporary basis is even more dangerous than permanent traffic control. For that reason, there are a number of regulations involving the use of items like delineators and channelizers that are designed for temporary projects, construction, or hazardous situations that are not going to exist forever. Although most people don’t realize it, everyone has seen hundreds of channelizers and delineators in their lifetime on the roadways.

Typically, these temporary traffic control devices will be fluorescent orange with reflective striping of some kind to increase their visibility. However, some states or situations may also call for neon yellow posts or even white posts, depending on the type of traffic control required. In the case of white posts, the traffic channeling is usually permanent, such as when a lane merges into a freeway. In the case of yellow or orange markers, the work or hazard is generally temporary in nature.

What is a Traffic Delineator?

Traffic delineators are a specific type of channelizer. The device is typically a tall, slender round pole that has a wider rubber base. These are the slimmest of the traffic control devices in this category, and their height makes them ideal for dividing traffic lanes and providing other short-term traffic control when you need a small product that fits into a tight space. These plastic poles include reflective taping at the top for visibility and are made of durable composite materials so that they can stand up to whatever traffic comes their way.

What is a Traffic Channelizer?

These products are typically found in the form of molded plastic barrels and cones that include reflective striping and a rubberized base that helps weigh the device down. Some states have different requirements for the design of channelizers. There are also Federal Highway Administration guidelines in place that dictate the construction, use, and maintenance of these channelizers.

In high-speed areas, the drums are the most commonly used channelizer. These are often referred to as orange barrels, and they are designed to be easily visible and to take the beating of potentially being hit at high speeds so that they don’t need to be replaced as often as if smaller channelizers were used on a freeway or other high-speed roadway. These drums, or barrels, are a lot heavier than they look, and they are designed to withstand years of use with proper maintenance.

Another type of channelizer that everyone is familiar with is the cone. Channelizer cones are typically used to mark a hazardous condition or as traffic control devices in slow traffic, such as on city or town streets, or in parking lots. They may also block off driveways and private parking lot projects, advising that work is ongoing and entry is not permitted. These cones are typically sold in 18, 28, and 36-inch height options, and some even have a handle that makes drop-off and pick-up easy when setting up traffic patterns.

Finally, there is the vertical panel. This orange and white reflective panel is a smaller channelizer that is designed to be used with limited space or when they are specifically called for by state or federal regulations. They are much cheaper and easier to store and transport, so they are becoming preferred to the drum or barrel-style channelizer in a lot of construction projects, although many still call for drums because of the visibility needed.

What Are They Used For?

Channelizers and delineators are simply products that are used to direct traffic in a construction zone or hazardous area. There is really no limit to the purposes that these traffic control devices can serve. They can divide lanes, direct cars in a certain area, and advise people of closed-off or hazardous areas in, on, or near the roadway. These are used when high visibility is a must because danger is paramount.

The biggest thing to remember is that channelizers are used to direct traffic. These fall under the guidance area of traffic control devices and signs. Where barriers and barricades are put up to restrict traffic completely, these delineators and channelizers are designed to guide traffic in the right direction as a result of a temporary project or condition. The goal is to protect workers and drivers alike, while also providing appropriate guidance for the traffic flow when a temporary situation occurs on the roadway.

Again, there are some situations where channelizers might be needed for a permanent traffic flow change or to warn drivers of an upcoming shift in the road, for example. In this case, most would simply use the white or white and black road markers or round delineators that are still easily visible but not as urgent as the fluorescent colors available.

Directing the Flow of Traffic

Traffic control is the biggest asset to safe driving on the roads. Without it, people would be in all kinds of accidents and causing all kinds of traffic issues. With channelizers and delineators, you can ensure that traffic goes where it should and that drivers are aware of upcoming changes in driving conditions or the road direction so that they can course-correct appropriately and safely.