County planning reflective borders on traffic signals

The in basket: Jack Ford says that during a recent power outage that hit Silverdale, he saw several cars blow through the darkened Levin Road traffic signal on Ridgetop Boulevard, probably unaware there is a signal there.

He wondered if reflective material can be put on signals so they can be spotted when the signals and nearby street lights are out.

The out basket: The state has been installing yellow borders on some of its signals where power outages are common for some time but I wasn’t sure if Kitsap County had followed suit. Ridgetop is a county road and the Levin light is temporary while Bucklin Hill Road is closed. It will be bagged Friday when Bucklin reopens and physically removed in coming weeks.

In driving around Silverdale I didn’t see any of the signals with the border. I asked if the county has any.

Jeff Shea, county traffic engineer, replied, “We have begun to install the heads with the reflective material around them, but they aren’t always that easy to see. We have the borders at some signals including Mullenix and Phillips (in South Kitsap), pedestrian crossing on Silverdale Way, and the new Bucklin Hill pedestrian crossing at Mickelberry.

“Even with the reflective material on the signal head some drivers don’t stop. Many of our power outages occur at night during storms making it difficult to see the roadway. Compound that with the height of the signal heads, which puts them on the periphery of the light your headlights project.

“For added safety because of the outages we experience, Public Works has been installing battery backups at our more heavily used intersections with plans to install them at all signals. These backups will allow our signals to operate for several hours after an outage occurs.”

The law says that a darkened traffic signal must be treated as an all-way stop.

2 thoughts on “County planning reflective borders on traffic signals

  1. I’ve noticed the reflective tape more and more throughout King and Snohomish Counties, and now starting to pop up in Kitsap County. My first reaction was — good!! Since the 1960’s I have been aware that colorblind people have problems judging whether a signal is red or green at night since they all look grey. All they have been able to do is guess at whether the top or bottom light is on – then take a chance.

    When I saw the reflective tape, I “assumed” it was to help colorblind people.

    Your Road Warrior column made me do a little research and I found the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (ref: FHWA=SA-12-007) reviewed a 1998 British Columbia study of reflective taping to assist colorblind and elderly drivers identify red/green traffic lights after dark. It proved to be a success so the FWHA put is encouraging state and local highway departments to add reflective tape to traffic lights referring to the change as “…a human factors enhancement of traffic signal visibility and conspicuity for older and colorblind drivers. Adding retroreflective borders is also advantageous during periods of power outages.”

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