Reflective Traffic Signs
Reflective Road Signs
Note the layers of this traffic sign – the reflective sheeting on top and aluminum underneath.
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
What are reflective traffic signs and what is their importance? Elaborate on how these

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How do reflective (retroreflective) traffic signs contribute to your safety?

Through improvements in luminescence – particularly during nighttime driving – reflective traffic signs provide visibility to safety cues not otherwise available. When we discuss the reflective qualities of traffic signs, we really mean the sign’s ability to reflect light or radiation back to its source.

The Federal Highway Administration notes that "at typical highway speeds, headlamps provide very little illumination at the distances drivers need to make decisions. Retroreflective materials extend the capabilities of the headlamps, making the critical visual cues provided by signs, pavement markings, and delineators visible at much greater distances."

The importance of reflective signs

The use of florescent materials creates higher visibility of objects and people in general. This is particularly true during periods of low available light, during dawn, disk, and reduced ambient light (shade).

Effective signs should have display areas designed for maximum visibility, which starts with the retroreflective material used, but also involves elements of sign design, such as contrast (between letter or symbol and background), letter size and spacing, and border.There are several additional ways that retroreflective signs contribute to road safety. Signs must serve drivers through improved visibility, conspicuity (their ability to attract attention), comprehensibility, and legibility. This involves a sign's clarity of message, vertical positioning, size and contrast with its environment, its recognizable shape and color, and its use of symbols.

Advantages of reflective signs

The FHWA says that brighter signs may help improve safety, and some studies show that improvements in visibility reduce crashes and their costs, which means the more visible the reflective signage (both in brightness and in distance seen), the better.ASTM, the standards body that is widely used for safet materials and technology, defines reflective sheeting by type: from the engineering grade beaded sheeting to sheeting that uses microprismatics. Consequently, ASTM standards and types are usually what departments of transportation will use to measure retroreflectivity and help set minimum reflectivity standards required for different types of road signs (although some states have developed their own specifications). Raising the minimum reflectivity by requiring improved sheeting types can deliver measurable benefit-to-cost savings. In before-and-after studies, researchers found that "implementation of highly reflective signs and pavement markings...showed statistically significant reductions in injury collisions following installation of highly reflective signs."

Crucial role in driver safety

The FHWA has estimated that over the past ten years some 40,000 fatalities occurred on U.S. roads with only one-quarter of traffic occurring at night. This disparity of day to nighttime fatalities is due to "lack of visual cues that indicate roadway curvature or other critical information to the driver," that also include "shoulders, pavement markings, overhead and post-mounted signs, roadside vegetation, guardrails, fences, and buildings, which make navigation easier."

At night we rely heavily on our car’s headlamps and signs to guide us and provide us visual cues, but headlamps alone provide low luminescence and allow for limited visibility. So reflective signs are designed to capture that low luminescence and amplify it. During nighttime driving, the cone of reflected light coming from a vehicle's headlamp is reflected back to the driver. In a sense, these signs replace our daytime visual cues.

The safety of night time driving is why we use reflective signage, but the efficacy doesn’t begin and end with the retroreflective materials coating the sign. Once the angles of observation have been calculated to properly determine variables of type of vehicle, the particular angle of observation, sign placement, legibility and luminescence, all these elements will work together to amplify the visual cue of the sign, and driver will be able to quickly acquire critical safety information and redirect his attention back to the road.

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