Doctor Diesel

Soapbox – The Catseye Scandal

Web01It’s over eighty years since Percy Shaw invented the original white reflecting catseye roadstud (as he patented the name) that made a huge contribution to safe night driving, by marking a clear route illuminated by the driver’s own headlights down the centre of the road. Its construction has been updated somewhat and the original concept widened with red catseyes for hard shoulders, amber ones for central reservations, and green ones for exit junction markings. With the exception of a miniscule and inevitable number of extraordinary events, like the unfortunate DJ who was sadly killed by a loose flying catseye, nobody has seriously questioned their immense contribution to road safety, or that of the reflective white paint used for the lines that often fill in between centre line catseyes. Who hasn’t at some time in their driving history blessed those catseyes for helping them see the way ahead in the fog, or dark, when otherwise they might have struggled to stay on the road? Then I find a Daily Mail report from way back in 2007 that said the following:
“Cat’s eyes, one of the greatest inventions in accident prevention, are coming to the end of the road. The familiar reflectors are to be replaced by a brighter, safer and cheaper alternative – solar-powered studs designed by a former London fireman. The Solarlites need just two hours of sunlight to power them for up to ten days, can be seen from ten times further away than cat’s eyes and are as cheap to buy.”
That was seven years ago. So why are many existing catseyes, and other road markings, now in such a very poor state of maintenance? Why is no money apparently being spent on maintaining such a critical road safety system? There are long stretches of busy major roads that I use regularly where the vision in the dark, particularly when it’s also wet, is appalling, and most of the problem is because the white catseyes are near enough invisible. Along with this, the white lines that should also be clearly reflective are also near enough invisible in the dark. I’m talking here about stretches of major dual carriageway in East Anglia, and I’m making it my business, now I’ve written these words, to complain to the Highways Agency about this appalling situation. New driving safety technology, like lane deviation and blind spot warning, and driver attention monitoring are wonderful, but just as much as we need this to help keep us safe, proven old technology is apparently being abandoned or not maintained.
While we’re on the subject of road reflectors, what ever happened to those 3ft verge posts with reflectors at the top that used to mark out roadside hazards and turnings into side roads? If you share my concerns, and the catseyes on roads that you use are in a poor state, make your feelings known to us at Diesel Car and the Highways Agency who manage most major A-roads, or the County Council responsible for most other roads.
Doctor Diesel

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