• Help Improve Intersection Safety: Add Backplates With Reflective Borders to Your Stoplights

    • A traffic light with a backplate stands against a blue sky.

      Intersections controlled by traffic signals present significant dangers to motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. In most cases, this is due to driver negligence and sight impairments:
       

      • Inattentive or distracted drivers may not see the signal in time to stop for a red light.
      • Drivers in a hurry may speed up to make it through a yellow light.
      • Older and color vision-deficient (colorblind) drivers may miss signals or be unable to interpret them correctly.

      To help reduce accidents at traffic signal-controlled intersections, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recommends taking steps to increase the visibility of traffic signals. The most effective way to accomplish this goal is by installing backplates on all of your traffic lights and framing those backplates with a highly visible retroreflective border.

    • Backplates help improve the visibility of the traffic light by providing a consistent background for the illuminated light. Fluorescent retroreflective borders make the traffic signal more conspicuous and visible to drivers in a range of conditions (night, day, rain, snow, etc.), which can help alert drivers to the upcoming signal. Increasing the conspicuity of your signals is particularly beneficial for older and color vision-deficient drivers. Fluorescent retroreflective borders also provide a visual cue that there is a stoplight-controlled intersection when the signals would otherwise be dark (e.g. during power outages).

    A Low-Cost Way to Increase the Visibility of Your Traffic Signals

    • Adding fluorescent retroreflective sheeting to your traffic signal backplates is a cost-effective way to improve visibility and road safety. According to the FHWA, the cost of adding retroreflectivity to your traffic lights ranges from “$35 for adding reflective tape to existing backplates to $56-110 for replacing the backplates with reflective material already incorporated.”¹

      Studies show that the safety benefits of this low-cost strategy can be significant. In one example from Columbia, South Carolina, fluorescent yellow retroreflective borders were added to backplates at three intersections with high crash rates. After the retroreflective borders were installed, total crashes decreased by 29% and late night/early morning crashes decreased by 50%.² A different study in Kentucky showed that retroreflective borders on backplates reduced crashes by 19.6%, with a 44% reduction in angle crashes.³

    Choosing the Right Fluorescent Retroreflective Sheeting for Your Traffic Signal Borders

    • A large traffic signal with reflective backplates shines brightly at nighttime.

      These studies demonstrate the safety benefits of adding fluorescent retroreflective borders to traffic signal backplates. But it’s important to keep in mind that not all fluorescent retroreflective sheeting is created equal. To maximize the return on your investment and build safer intersections for all, it’s important to use fluorescent retroreflective sheeting that consistently and reliably increases visibility. Here are a few key characteristics to consider:
       

      • Conspicuity: To increase drivers’ awareness of traffic signals, it’s important to install highly visible, conspicuous borders. Brighter sheeting materials will attract drivers’ attention sooner, giving them more time to notice and react to the signal. Highly conspicuous fluorescent colors are easier to see at day, night, dawn and dusk. It’s been found that fluorescent materials are recognized at greater distances, with more accurate perception of color, than non-fluorescent-colored products.⁴ Advanced full-cube technology in 3M™ Diamond Grade™ DG3 Reflective Sheeting can offer nearly twice the brightness of conventional prismatic sheeting, attracting the attention of drivers sooner to help improve response times.

      • Visibility in Disadvantageous Locations: Traffic lights are typically positioned high above a vehicle’s headlights and a driver’s line of sight, making it difficult to ensure that light will be reflected from the traffic signal border back to the driver. To counteract this challenge, use sign sheeting that creates a large, bright cone of reflectivity. This helps to ensure that light is reflected back to the driver.
      • Durability and Consistency: Over their lifespan, traffic signals are exposed to a wide range of environmental conditions — from the expected wear and tear to sun exposure to adverse weather. Using highly durable sheeting material that maintains its visibility and performance over time will help ensure that drivers can continue to see the retroreflective borders on your backplates as the years pass.
      • Retroreflectivity: To improve the visibility of your pavement markings — particularly at night — install markings that use retroreflective technology. Retroreflective materials are designed to reflect light in an intense, controlled cone. The result is that more light from a vehicle’s headlights is reflected back to the driver, helping the driver see the marking in low-light conditions.


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    References

    • Interested in learning more about adding retroreflective sheeting to your traffic signal borders?