Cats Eyes, one of the great British inventions of the 20th Century, may soon become a thing of the past after the government announced plans to replace them with solar powered LEDs.
These new lights can be seen at distances of up to 1,000 yards, some 10 times further than existing Cats eyes. Because of their solar-powered batteries, and the efficiency inherent in LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes), they can work for up to 10 days on as little as a 4 hour charge. While they cost more to produce at £30 than the £10 for a standard Cats Eye, they last 2-3 times longer with a life-expectancy of 8-10 years versus 2-3 years for existing technologies.
“Reflective Road Studs” are ingrained in existing legislation, as they have been for decades, however Ministers have announced a consultation on amending the regulations to allow LED’s without reflective strips due to their “extended visibility” and “better performance in poor weather conditions. The industry argues that the legislation has hampered companies specialising in the new technologies to come to the UK.
The consultation says: “Advances in technology have led to the development of studs that include only light emitting diodes, hardwired in tunnels and solar powered elsewhere.
“We propose amending the regulation to accommodate this technology. Traditional studs use reflectors or retroreflecting material which rely on headlight beams for their illumination.
“Active studs use internal light emitting diodes as their light source giving extended visibility distances and better performance in poor weather conditions over traditional studs.
Due to the existing legislation only more expensive LED lights incorporating reflective strips have been permitted on British roads, including around 400 accident black spots such as stretches of the A20 in Kent, and the M40 in the Midlands. Buckinghamshire Council also elected to install them on a stretch of A-road, replacing the street lights as part of a cost and carbon-footprint cutting initiative.
Graham Muspratt, the group product manager at Astucia, the company behind the lights, said:
“We hope that they will become the norm, they have clear road safety benefits as well as other benefits to drivers.
“It is much less stressful driving when the road studs are used because drivers can see further ahead. They have also been proven to improve road discipline.”
The original Cat’s Eye design was drawn up by Percy Shaw, a Yorkshireman, in the 1930s. He was inspired one night after seeing the reflection of his car headlamps in the eyes of a cat. While improved upon over the years, the basic principle has been used in road safety measures around the world.