November 21, 2007 As drivers we tend to ignore "cat's eyes" until we strike inclement weather or unfamiliar roads at night, at which point their safety value in showing us the road ahead comes very much to the fore. Standard reflective road studs rely on illumination from the headlight beams of the approaching vehicle and are effective to a distance of up to 90 meters, a situation that is being greatly improved by the application of solar power to the create stand-alone, self-powered illumination devices. The latest generation of solar road studs has just been announced by pioneering British company Astucia - the SolarLite™ “smart” road stud uses stored solar power to run built-in Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), providing an effective guide for drivers at up to a distance of 900 meters and extending reaction times from 3.2 to over 30 seconds when driving at 60mph.
The SolarLite™ LEDs are automatically activated during the dusk to dawn period and also incorporate conventional reflectors to provide daytime road delineation.
Recently certified by the Department for Transport, the studs are now in use in approximately 120 locations across the UK and according to Astucia, a number of Local Authorities have reported reductions in night time accidents of well over 70% since the installation of the SolarLite road studs, with research carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory showing that when the smart studs are used, drivers brake earlier and more consistently and are less likely to cross the white line in the center of a road or move out of lane on a dual carriageway.The safety benefits of the flush fitting studs also extend to for cyclist and motorcyclists.
The latest generation of the SolarLite F Series intelligent road stud uses improved solar panel and Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology to keep costs on a par with conventional retro-reflective stud when the relative life-spans of the products are taken into account (eight to ten years for the "smart" stud compared with one to two years for a conventional retro-reflective stud).
Astucia Traffic Safety Systems point out that any costs are negligible in comparison with the cost and trauma of a fatal road accident - according to the latest UK Department for Transport annual statistics, there are on average more than 8 fatal accidents every day, each one costing the country £1.69 million pounds. While only one third of all journeys occur at night, almost half of the serious or fatal accidents occur during the hours of darkness.
In the UK, Astucia road studs are currently installed on roads in Lothian in Scotland, the Vale of Glamorgan in Wales, in Buckinghamshire, Norfolk and Oxfordshire. They are also used in more specialized applications such as demarking cycle lanes in Cambridgeshire and Fast Track bus lanes in Essex.
The original “cats-eye” was invented in the 1930s by Percy Shaw and the Astucia SolarLite studs was conceived in 1989 by Martin Dicks, a former member of the London Fire Brigade who formed Astucia to develop and market his invention in 1992.