Improving road safety through better night visibility
Dubai: Improving road safety through better nighttime visibility is an ongoing challenge in the UAE, where weather conditions affect the reflective material used on roads, an expert said.
In a very hot weather, the asphalt sweats, producing black liquid particles that are caught by car tyres and stamped over the reflective material on the roads, which considerably shortens their lifetime, Rik Nuyttens, Vice-President of the International Road Federation (IRF) based in Switzerland and Regulatory Affairs Manager of 3M Traffic Safety Systems Division EMEA Region, said.
On a recent visit to the UAE, Nuyttens met officials from road and transport authorities in different emirates to discuss their safety requirements, and how 3M can help develop products to meet these requirements.
“Our concern is how to make road marking perform better and serve longer, as reflective material consists of glass beads that disappear under the black asphalt, and night visibility will be gone,” Nuyttens said.
“We have products that last for six to eight years and are very durable, but again, when covered by asphalt, they lose their effect,” he said.
Another concern of the company is improving the visibility of road signs to keep up with the development in roads, vehicles, and driving conditions.
“One of the main issues that need to be tackled is that we now have many more senior citizens behind wheels, and since in most cases they don’t see as well as younger drivers at night, it may be harder for them to read road signs,” Nuyttens said.
As a driver approaches a road sign, he should plan his exit from a distance, but failing to see the sign from a distance results in last minute decisions and sudden swerving, which is the highest cause of serious traffic accidents.
“We don’t have this problem in Dubai as the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) use good quality signs that can be seen from a distance and which have big letters that can be read as easily and as soon at day and night,” he said.
Street lights will help you see the road from a distance, but it is your headlights reflecting off signs that enable you to see signs and road markings at night, Nuyttens said.
Speaking from the dark room in 3M’s Media City office, where the difference between various reflective materials can be seen and the best for each road can be selected, Nuyttens said he recommends using florescent colours on road signs, as these help get the sign message across.
The company, along with police and road authorities in different countries, studies the effect of implementing safety solutions by measuring the number of accidents before and after implementation.
Low-cost solutions are also offered to customers on limited budget, while sponsored free materials have also been offered to selected road safety projects in some countries.
According to Nuyttens, road safety can be improved by following a three-way strategy that starts with early education.
“Law enforcement by police bodies must also be very strict, and we believe that increasing fines and tougher enforcement go hand in hand when it comes to preventing road accidents and increasing safety,” he said.
Ensuring the safety of vehicles is a crucial step towards traffic safety, which means passengers should wear seatbelts, children should be restrained in child car seats, and airbags should be obligatory in all cars.
And finally, the infrastructure should be improved to provide best driving conditions, starting from better roads and road signs and not ending with improving night visibility, Nuyttens added.
3M manufactures reflective sheeting and matched components for traffic signs, pavement marking systems, including durable tapes, liquid and wet reflective systems and raised pavement markers; products and systems for motor vehicle registration and license plates; conspicuity markings for commercial vehicles and rail cars.