Giving Story: John Door

Little White Lines: A revolutionary idea can sometimes be as simple as a stripe of white paint.

In the early 1950’s, U.S. roads had a white stripe down the middle but none at the sides. Inventor and engineer John Door noticed that drivers blinded by snow, rain or the headlights of oncoming cars seemed to hug that middle line and often ran headlong into disaster.

He theorized that a white line painted down the outside margin of the road would give drivers a guideline to steer them from danger. Through his family foundation, he financed an experiment in Connecticut and found that accident rates fell 65 percent when lines were painted on the side of the road. The word spread; soon all states began to paint lines on the sides of their highways. Today, these lines are taken for granted — an innovation pioneered by private philanthropy which has become a vital part of public life.