Technology Talk Series

Low beam headlights have evolved. Why it matters.

The effect of modern headlights on traffic sign effectiveness

Available On Demand

Wednesday, May 6, 2020 | 11am ET / 10am CT

Vehicle headlight illumination has a direct impact on traffic sign visibility for nighttime motorists. Retroreflective signs work by returning light from headlights back to the driver.  Two most recent datasets about evolving headlight illumination patterns, from 2011 and 2019 model vehicles, come from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI). Comparison of these two datasets provides insights on how well today’s common headlights illuminate many roadway elements including traffic signs. 

This webinar will provide a summary of this comparison and discuss the implications of newer headlights in relation to traffic sign performance at night. The data suggests that headlight changes designed to improve low beam roadway illumination and reduce glare for oncoming drivers also results in less light reaching traffic signs with reductions ranging from 14% to 24 % for common sign locations. The session will also address how these reductions can be mitigated without compromising headlight integrity. 

Learning Objectives:

  • Low-beam headlights have evolved to be less glaring and deliver more light onto the roadway.
  • On average, signs are receiving less light from 2019 model low-beam headlights than they did from 2011 model low-beam headlights.
  • Upgrade your traffic sign specification from ASTM Type IV high intensity prismatic sheeting to 3M™ Diamond Grade™ DG3 Reflective Sheeting Type XI to compensate for the evolution of low-beam headlights—which are delivering less light to signs. Use Type XI sheeting to keep signs reflecting brightly in the age of less-glaring headlights.

About the Company:

At 3M we are dedicated to improving transportation safety and mobility so all road users can arrive at their destinations safely. We are a leading global supplier of high-performance materials for traffic signs and work zone devices, road markings, vehicle conspicuity markings, and vehicle registration materials, systems and services.

Michael J. Flannagan, PhD
Research Professor
University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute
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Fuat Aktan, PhD
Regulatory Affairs Manager
3M Transportation Safety Division
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