Those raised reflective dots in the middle of the road: who made them and how.

Essay by MushywafflesHigh School, 10th gradeA, March 2006

download word file, 1 pages 4.0

A Dotty Idea

You may have run over Elbert Dysart Botts's invention today. Never heard of him you say? Well, he's the guy who developed Botts Dots, the raised reflective markers seen in the middle of roads and freeways throughout America.

Botts earned his Doctorate in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin and taught for 16 years at San Jose University. When WWII broke out, he went to work for the government as a chemist. Then he landed a job as a chemist in research and development at CalTrans, which is the Californian Department of Transportation, where he was assigned the task of creating reflective paint for freeways that could be seen in heavy rain.

That is when Botts dreamed up the idea of raised markers, which he called reflective Pavement Markers, or RPMs, known by the nickname of "Botts Dots". Unfortunately, the ceramic markers cracked apart after being rolled over, exposing the spikes that held it to the road, which (as you might have already guessed) was not very good for tires.

Shortly after multiple incidents with the spikes, one of Bott's former students came up with a solution. He developed a durable, fast-drying epoxy that replaced those problematic spikes.

Elbert Botts retired from CalTrans in 1960 and died two years later at age 69. Even though he never got to see his invention installed on warm-weather roads all over the country (he died three years before the first Botts Dots were installed in Northern California in 1963), I hope he knows that from now on, every time we hear that "thump-thump-thump" under our car tires, we will be thanking him for keeping us awake and out of everybody else's lane.