How Retroreflectivity Makes Our Roads SaferAbstract:
Signs that seem to glow in the dark can help motorists navigate the roadway safely at night. They are made with retroreflective sheeting materials that return light from headlights back toward the vehicle and the driver’s eyes. Retroreflective sheeting technology employs small glass beads and microprismatic reflectors. When signs are covered with retroreflective materials, they shine at night. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is developing standards for minimum retroreflectivity levels to encourage public agencies to inspect and maintain sign retroreflectivity for better nighttime visibility. Properly maintained retroreflective signs allow drivers to see signs sooner and better, giving them important regulatory, warning and guidance information – that just might save lives. While only 25 percent of travel occurs at night, more than half of traffic fatalities occur during nighttime hours. Inadequate and poorly maintained signs are cited often as a contributing factor to crashes and fatalities. Guidelines for minimum retroreflectivity levels are being developed with input from State and local highway agencies. The guidelines will support provisions in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) to improve nighttime sign visibility on all roads, streets, and highways in the United States. These guidelines will enable officials to better manage sign resources to maintain reasonable night visibility.