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FHWA Home / Safety / Proven Safety Countermeasures / Proven Safety Countermeasures

Proven Safety Countermeasures | Intersections

6. Backplates with Retroreflective Borders

Icon representing a stoplight with retroreflective backplate border.

Backplates with Retroreflective Borders

Image shows a stoplight with a retroreflective border. An arrow points at the backplate, which is black, and the border, which is yellow.

Source: FHWA

Safety Benefit:


15%

Reductions in total crashes

Source: CMF Clearinghouse, CMF ID 1410.

Backplates added to a traffic signal indication improve the visibility of the illuminated face of the signal by introducing a controlled-contrast background. The improved visibility of a signal head with a backplate is made even more conspicuous by framing it with a retroreflective border. Signal heads that have backplates equipped with retroreflective borders are more visible and conspicuous in both daytime and nighttime conditions.

Image shows a stoplight with a protected left turn light on, with a backplate framed with a retroreflective border.
Source: FHWA

This treatment is recognized as a human factors enhancement of traffic signal visibility, conspicuity, and orientation for both older and color vision deficient drivers. This countermeasure is also advantageous during periods of power outages when the signals would otherwise be dark, providing a visible cue for motorists.

Image shows a stoplight with a backplate framed with a retroreflective border at night, demonstrating the retroreflective ability.
Source: South Carolina DOT

Transportation agencies should consider backplates with retroreflective borders as part of their efforts to systemically improve safety performance at signalized intersections. Adding a retroreflective border to an existing signal backplate is a very lowcost safety treatment. The most effective means of implementing this proven safety countermeasure is to adopt it as a standard treatment for signalized intersections across a jurisdiction.

Office of Safety logo: Safe Roads for a Safer Future

https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/provencountermeasures.

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Page last modified on November 9, 2018
Safe Roads for a Safer Future - Investment in roadway safety saves lives
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