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The end of the road for cat’s eyes – not likely!

Following the launch of a consultation on the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) 2016, the Press leapt straight onto one of the proposals around widening the use of active road studs. As leading providers of road safety solutions, we’ve been monitoring this issue and media coverage of it closely.

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This image features both solar and hardwired active road studs from Clearview Traffic.

Perhaps a little too hungry for a good story, the Press proposed the end of the road for cat’s eyes. A journalist responsible for writing the original article even called us up to get our view at the time. We tried to set him straight, but the headline was an opportunity too good to miss.

The reality is, as even 3M, a major player in the passive road studs arena has correctly publically stated, that the consultation is nothing to do with ceasing the use of cat’s eyes. Instead, the consultation is seeking to clarify and get general acceptance that active LED-based road studs, such as our SolarLite road studs, should be considered appropriate for use wherever studs are a valid measure to use.

In their response, 3M claim that passive road studs are cost-efficient, and rightly point out that cost is an important consideration when local authorities are facing increasingly tighter budgets.

They also claim that passive road studs offer high levels of durability and that they are well suited for most road conditions, in particular accident blackspots where there may be limited light sources.

The 3M product certainly has a place, but we don’t agree with everything they’ve said.

If you look at cost-efficiency purely in terms of initial capital outlay for the product and its installation, then if you are looking purely short-term, we agree that passive road studs are cost-efficient on that basis. But this is a false view and here’s why:

With an operational lifetime expected of a stretch of road around 8-10 years before resurfacing, then a passive road stud that anecdotally is known to degrade in performance or even disappear from the road usually between 18-36 months, typically sparking replacement every 2-3 years, starts to look less favourable.

Not only that, but when you consider the additional disruption to road users of this additional installation work, the implications start to become quite compounding.

With active road studs, you get a product that will typically last 8-10 year in the road.

Yes, it’s more expensive to buy initially, but there’s no need to revisit and replace lost product during the lifetime of the road. So a one-time cost and only one period of road disruption. This helps to promote more cost-effective road safety in the UK in our view.

Furthermore, it kind of misses the point about the real benefits of active road stud technology over passive retro-reflective studs. We’re firm advocates of intelligent road studs as a primary solution for promoting road safety solutions across UK roads.

Passive studs rely 100% on being able to reflect light back from the headlight beam. We all know that in less optimal weather conditions such as fog, mist or heavy rain, this headlight beam is compromised and does not pierce through.

Also, even if your headlights are working well and are not compromised by bad weather, the maximum visibility of these passive studs is determined by how far your headlight beam stretches. Normally this is about 80m-90m.

With active studs though, regardless of whether your headlights are working well or not, they are capable of extending your visibility of the road layout ahead by up to 900m: 10 times the distance of the passive stud.

This massively changes the driver’s perspective of what they see ahead and how they react to it. So, when travelling at 60mph, instead of having 2-3 seconds to react to whatever you see in your headlight beam, you suddenly have up to 30 seconds to react and adjust your driving behaviour.

This results in fewer run-off accidents, smoother braking behaviour and road users feeling less stressed; all of these things contributing to a much better driving experience and safer roads.

And it’s why these active road studs are continually highlighted as measures that have made a significant difference to road safety.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the A642 in Wakefield was highlighted in the latest EuroRAP report as one of the UK’s most improved roads, partially because they have implemented and seen the benefit of the SolarLite active road stud.

And it’s not alone.

The A4128 has long been quoted as another key example, as has the A41, and when single carriageway ‘A’ roads are now seen as carrying eight times more risk than motorways, anything that can prevent needless fatalities and injuries, we have to take note.

If you share our view that active road studs are the way forward, making sound economic as well as social sense, then please get in touch with us here.

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