Reflective Traffic Signs
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High Intensity Signs
Demonstrated here: the difference between engineer grade (front), high intensity (middle) and diamond grade reflectivity (back). Note the high intensity sign's textured appearance.
Optimum placement of reflective traffic signs
Retroreflective signs are illuminated for the human eye when the entrance angle..

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The science behind reflective traffic signs
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Reflective sheeting – which is the best?

Quality

Both domestically and internationally, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D4956 Standard Specification for Retro-reflective Sheeting for Traffic Control, governs the quality assurance (QA) of reflective sign manufacture

Types of reflective sheeting

Type I

Engineer Grade/Commercial Grade: Engineer grade (EG) is a basic type of reflective sheeting, made up of very small glass beads enclosed in a translucent pigmented layer. This material is one of the most durable of all the sign sheeting products in its ability to withstand rough handling and is generally regarded to have a seven-year service life. However, Type I signs are the least reflective and have the narrowest viewing angle, least expensive, good for parking signs, not approved by most state DOTs.

Type II

Super Engineering Grade: Super engineering grade is similar to Type I, but it uses larger glass beads and that means it provides about twice the level of reflectivity of Type I sheeting. The cost is less than twice that of Type I and is generally regarded to have a ten year service life.Typical applications for this material are permanent highway signing, construction zone devices, and delineators.

Type III

High Intensity Beaded: This sheeting is known as "encapsulated lens" sheeting, made of two layers: an outer translucent pigmented layer and an inner reflective layer faced with glass beads. The cost for Type III sheeting is about twice that of Type I and generally regarded to have a ten year service life. Typical applications for this material are permanent highway signing, construction zone devices, and delineators. Type III has much higher reflectivity (five times more that Engineer Grade) with a wider angle, is more durable than Engineer's grade, and is used by many DOTs.

Type IV and up

Diamond Grade or prismatic: Also called “microprismatic,”Diamond-Grade sheeting can be distinguished by the pattern of small squares superimposed upon a hexagonal lattice pattern. Type IV is about seven times more bright than Engineering grade and reflects light at a very wide angle, while its cost and service life is comparable to Type III.

Durability

The durability of retroreflective sheeting will depend upon substrate selection (the backing and adhesives used) and preparation, compliance with recommended application procedures, geographic area, exposure conditions, and maintenance. Maximum durability will be determined to some degree by exposure to environmental conditions. Atmospheric conditions in certain geographic areas may result in reduced durability.

Pricing

The durability of retroreflective sheeting will depend upon substrate selection (the backing and adhesives used) and preparation, compliance with recommended application procedures, geographic area, exposure conditions, and maintenance.Maximum durability will be determined to some degree by exposure to environmental conditions. Atmospheric conditionsin certain geographic areas may result in reduced durability.

Pricing

The cost of implementing a retroreflective sign replacement program will find the burden of its costs tied to the retroreflective sheeting materials. Labor and other materials will be in line with their current budgets for signing. Agencies can expect to spend about $0.75 per sq. ft. for type I, $1.25 per sq. ft. for type II, $1.50 for III and IV and $3.50 for VII, VIII IX and X.

Life cycle costs

The FHWA says, "The best measure of the cost of a sign to an agency is its life-cycle cost, under which the total cost is distributed over the years of useful life that the sign will provide. Generally, signs are expected to provide adequate detectability and legibility for 7 to 15 years, depending on the sign sheeting, but there are currently no specific criteria or models that can definitively predict service life.” It can be difficult to estimate the life-cycle cost of a sign, but it’s an important consideration for long-term budgeting. Some major factors that will influence life cycle costs include the number and size of signs required in a jurisdiction, the degree or grade of material chosen, decisions to fabricate signs or buy pre-fabricated signs, strategic alliances between agencies to procure materials and services, using larger signs to offset the need for higher retroreflectivity levels.


 
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