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3M™ Diamond Grade™ fluorescent reflective sheeting

Reflective SignsReflective Signs

Side-by-side photo comparison of reflective signs in dark and light conditions. From left to right: non-reflective, engineer grade, Diamond Grade, high intensity grade.

Reflective sheeting is essentially a coat of fluorescent material applied over the aluminum sign. Reflective signs are invaluable in poorly lit areas and general nighttime conditions. In fact, the Department of Transportation's (DOT) Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) does not permit non-reflective signs. Reflective signs are particularly useful in rural areas and roads where street lighting may be minimal. These signs are also helpful in emergency situations where power may go out and these signs can pave the way to safety. In general, however, the rule of thumb is: the lower the visibilityin an area, the greater the need for more fluorescent reflective sheeting.

To find the best fluorescent signs on the market today, opt for those with the highest amount of fluorescent material. Depending on your needs and your price range, signs can exhibit varying levels of reflectivity. Reflective signs with the least amount or fluorescence are “engineer grade” signs. Hence these signs are also the cheapest. This level of fluorescence is accepted by most municipalities and meets the DOT’s standards for some roads and bridges in the Federal Highway Project. Moreover, such fluorescent signs work fine for private streets and less crowded thoroughfares — but may not always be the safest option, particularly for busy streets or dark country roads.

The second greatest concentration of fluorescent material can be found in “high intensity grade” signs that contain three times the amount of reflectivity of engineer grade signs. These signs use prismatic technology to offer superior visibility when viewed at an angle (as opposed to straight on).

The greatest concentration of fluorescent sheeting is found in Diamond Grade signs, a trademarked technology developed by 3M to have ten times the amount of fluorescent material than engineer grade signs. Diamond Grade signs were developed by the company to be durableand highly visible in daytime, twilight, nighttime, and in bad weather. While Diamond Grade signs are a bit more expensive, the added nighttime visibility is well worth it since it improves viewers’ ability to comprehend the sign — and from a much greater distance than other levels of fluorescent-enabled signs.

3M’s Diamond Grade technology is less than a decade old, and was made to respond to changing demographics and road conditions. According to 3M, a growing population of aging drivers who need more light and more contrast in signage in order to respond to road hazards and traffic flow issues.

The variety of vehicles on the road poses a different challenge. A sedan, an SUV and an eighteen-wheeler lorry all have different observation angles between their headlights and the drivers’ eye level — a road reality solved by greater retroreflectivity from signs. To add to the challenges, newer visually/optically amiable (VOA) headlamps reduce glare, but they also reduce the amount of light being thrown at an oncoming sign — making higher reflectivity more necessary. Municipalities that have upgraded to Diamond Grade sign sheeting have seen a reduction in crashes: Putnam County in New York saw a 25% drop, and woodsy Mendocino County in California reported an impressive 48% drop in crashes.

Diamond Grade fluorescent signs ensure the safest roads and the greatest chances of reducing accidents.Brighter signs mean better, and often faster, responses from drivers.

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