Reflective road signs dangerous

You may have noticed while you are driving at night that some signs along the roadway seem oddly bright. You are not imagining things; signs for rest stops and exit ramps, along with street signs and traffic signs, are created to reflect light at night, making them more visible to drivers. But are they too bright? A new study out of Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) indicates that the reflective technologies used in road signs actually create a glare bright enough that some drivers may be unable to see road hazards that may be up ahead, or even read the sign itself.

Findings from the study

Road & Bridges Magazine reports that the TTI looked into 1200 data points, collected when 23 drivers – 11 under the age of 36 and 12 over the age of 60 – were asked to drive around a 12 mile stretch at night. The drivers were asked to read the signs, and to identify potential roadside hazards as quickly as they could, while they were driving. “All of the roadside hazards were located 3 [feet] outside of the edge line marking the travel lane. The locations of the speed limit signs and roadside hazards varied throughout the visibility testing,” as they would on a normal road.

The study found that younger drivers were able to detect potential hazards more easily and from farther away, which the researchers expected given their age. But they also discovered that “when the [speed limit] signs were present, the detection distances decreased—and the brighter the sign, the shorter the detection distances.”

Taking greater precautions

As a result of the study, researchers recommended removing unnecessary signs, but also suggested using a different kind of material to replace the signs that had to remain. Their recommendations took high-beam usage on rural roads into consideration, but also looked into the benefits of changing the signs in more urban areas with a lot of foot and motor vehicle traffic. Until regulations are put forth, however, drivers must be aware that the glare from these signs could put them at risk of an accident.

Plaxen Adler Muncy, P.A. offers clients in Columbia, Baltimore and throughout Maryland comprehensive counsel and representation after a car accident. Please contact us to learn more about your options after you were injured in a collision.