For decades, Reflective Tapes have been a mainstay in the United States for transportation and marine safety, particularly in dark and stormy conditions. Reflective tape prevents accidents, shows due diligence, and reduces liability in the case of an unfortunate event such as a collision. Making dangerous objects visible at night is not only the right thing to do, it is also prudent when it comes to accident responsibility. Listed below are some of the best uses for reflective tape. All of the applications prevent injury and save lives, so it is difficult to put them in an order of importance. However, if one had to be chosen as having the most positive impact on public safety, it would be reflective sheeting used for traffic signs.
Reflective Tape for Signs & Other Traffic Applications
It is generally agreed upon that the best and most popular use for reflective tape or retro reflective sheeting is on objects on and around roadways across the country. These include signs, barricades, bollards, traffic cones, fire hydrants, work zone barrels, workers, and other on or around the roadway applications. In this area of reflectivity, the number one use of reflective tape is traffic signs. In fact, the original invention of reflective sheeting by the 3m company was for this very use. By providing a reflective background for messages, signs can be seen and read from hundreds to thousands of feet away depending on the overall size of the sign. Contrast this to non reflective signs that cannot be seen at all during the night. Objects in work zones such as traffic cones, barricades, and barrels are made infinitely more visible from reflective sheeting applied to their surface, and since serving as a warning to drivers is their purpose, this additional nighttime visibility is a must. Since work zones are often unexpected, they need to be clearly marked in every way possible both day and night so that drivers slow down and exercise caution. Lastly, the most important object in a work zone are the workers. Reflective garment trim is used to keep them visible and safe.
Fire hydrants and bollards are stationary objects that are meant to be seen, but not struck by a vehicle. So marking these with bright paint for daytime, and bright reflective tape for night is imperative. Striking either of these objects can be catastrophic to an automobile and its occupants. An engineer grade tape is sufficient due to the close in nature of visibility, however brighter tapes can of course be used.
Reflective Tape for DOT Regulated Trucks
United States Department of Transportation approved reflective tapes (also known as DOT C2) are used to help make roadways safer. DOT tape has a strong adhesive and is designed to be applied to the metal sides of tractor trailers. By law, all large trucks that exceed 10,000 pounds and are over 80 inches wide must use this tape. US DOT red and white reflective tape (DOT C2) works by capturing light from oncoming headlights, concentrating that light, and bouncing it back to the light source, or car headlights.
Reflective Tape for Utility and Fire Vehicles
One application of reflective tape that has been very successful at saving lives would be the reflective panels on the backs and fronts of trucks and other vehicles that start and stop in traffic. Fire trucks and utility vehicles, road rangers, DOT service trucks, and other fleet vehicles are examples of vehicles that benefit from these reflective panels. The idea behind these panels is that since they are highly visible day and night and made from highly reflective sheeting, they capture other drivers attention. The two bright and contrasting colors, and the angles used, increase conspicuity to oncoming drivers. So when a fire truck, a utility truck, a DOT vehicle, a police cruiser, or other fleet vehicle park in traffic, they can be seen and avoided.
Reflective Tape for Containers and Dumpsters
Still another use for reflective tape is in marking containers. Whether they be shipping containers, roll off construction debris containers, dumpsters, or trash cans, reflective tape makes these objects seen at night and prevents accidents.
Reflective Tape for Motorcycles, Scooters and Bikes
Scooters, motorcycles, and bicycles benefit greatly from increased visibility around automobiles. By applying reflective tape to frames, seats, handlebars, and saddlebags, bikes, scooters, and motorcycles can be made visible for thousands of fee away, giving drivers plenty of time to avoid an accident. When headlights from other vehicles illuminate the tape, the tape concentrates and reflects the light, making whatever the tape is attached to highly visible. For motorcycles that do not want bright reflective colors seen on their bike, black reflective tape can be used. It blends in during the day, and is actually quite reflective at night. We recommend Oralite 5650 Rapid Air reflective for these applications.
Reflective SOLAS Tape for Marine and Offshore Applications
SOLAS Marine Reflective Tape is designed specifically for marine and offshore applications, however, it’s perfect for any situation where you need high reflectivity and visibility outdoors. For example, SOLAS reflective tape is very popular with motorcyclists who desire long range visibility on both their bikes and clothing.
SOLAS Marine tape is designed to withstand UV, extreme temperatures, and harsh weather.
If you frequently boat at night, SOLAS reflective tape is perfect for making your boat more visible to others at long distances. As with any application of reflective tape, we recommend that apply SOLAS in such a way that you create a visual outline of your craft. This way, from a long distance, other boaters will recognize you as another boat, versus a buoy, dock, bridge, etc. If you have a dock that needs to be seen at night, you can apply SOLAS to make it easier to find at night. This applies to you as the owner of the dock and the one who wishes to moor there, and others who would want to avoid a collision with your dock. Visibility helps in both situations.
Steven Cole (Economics, MBA – University of West Florida , Business & Innovation – Stanford University) 25 years of experience in the reflective safety business. Specializing in vehicle accident and rear end collision reduction through increased visibility.