A January 2016 Greyhound bus crash that ended up killing two people and injuring a dozen others on Highway 101 in the Bay Area, was allegedly due in part to inadequate road markings, according to a federal investigation of the accident. In particular, the absence of reflective warning markings was mentioned as one of the factors that led to this disastrous accident.
This brings up the issue of retroreflectivity in traffic signs and why it is key to maintaining public safety on roads and highways, especially during night-time driving.
What is Retroreflectivity?
Retroreflectivity is basically a property by which light is reflected from a surface and returned to its original source. In the case of traffic signs, light is redirected from the surface of the signs toward the vehicle’s headlights and back to the driver. Since its purpose is to make objects shine brighter than they usually are, it is an important part of preventing night-time fatal crashes that are almost three times more likely to happen than daytime crashes.
Usually, a special sheeting made of optical properties is used to develop such retroreflective signs; but alternate methods of adding reflector buttons to a sign’s surface to highlight numbers, symbols or words on the surface itself can also be applied to maintain retroreflectivity.
How to measure the effectiveness of retroreflectivity in traffic signs?
A number of testing procedures and methods have been outlined by The American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) to assess the effectiveness of retroreflectivity in existing traffic signs. One of the methods is to use a retroreflectometer, and the other is to monitor traffic reflectivity manually, which includes night-time inspections, blanket replacement of signs, and marking control signs.
It is to be kept in mind that retroreflectivity of signs does not remain constant over time and is prone to degradation owing to a number of factors. The tricky part is to timely assess when a sign has deteriorated completely and needs to be replaced–not too early or not too late.
The 2009 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) provides standard requirements of sign retroreflectivity, known as Maintaining Minimum Retroreflectivity, which are to be adhered to even for signs on private roadways open to the public.
All public agencies, be it state, county, or local, are bound to follow the minimum retroreflectivity requirements and invest adequately to ensure traffic signs are legible, visible and in good working condition. Not doing so may give rise to liability.
Should you or a loved one be a victim of a serious vehicle accident, proving the government’s fault can be a challenge better navigated when you have an experienced personal injury lawyer by your side. Contact the Alexander Law Group, LLP to help you receive the compensation you are due. You can reach us at 888.777.1776, or you can contact us online for a free, confidential consultation.