Four things you should know about reflectors – an interview with gösta werner

Reflectors are not found on many people’s autumn and winter clothing; we put them on our children, but forget to put them on our own clothes. Instead, we go out in dark winterwear, in the belief that the closest lamppost will show drivers that we’re there. However, without a reflector, you’re only visible at a distance of 25 metres, which is too short a time for a motorist to react and stop. Why is this? Could our lack of reflector etiquette be linked to our knowledge of them?

We decided to get to the bottom of the issue by interviewing Gösta Werner, who has helped develop our high-quality, certified reflectors, and who has 30 years’ experience of researching light and reflectors at the Research Institutes of Sweden.

In the interview, you can read Gösta’s four most important tips for choosing, using and positioning your reflectors.

What is the most important thing to consider when choosing a reflector?

Firstly, the reflector supplier must be able to prove that its reflectors comply with the relevant quality standards. If the reflector is CE marked this must be visible on the reflector and/or its packaging, so you can easily evaluate the product before buying it. You should check whether it is quality-assured even if you get it for free.

A quality-assured reflector may be a little more expensive, but it provides you with a guarantee that the reflector makes you visible and provides you with enough protection.

Unfortunately, the market is overflowing with cheap advertising reflectors with no quality certifications at all, providing no basic protection and lulling you into a false sense of security. This also applies to reflectors sewn onto clothing.

Where should I position my reflector so motorists see me in time?

When you are out walking along roads and streets, it is important that your reflectors are positioned so they can be hit by light from headlamps and reflect it back to the drivers.

Therefore, it’s best to position your reflectors below your waist, on both the back and front of your body.

Full beam is sometimes used on country roads, which gives the light a chance to reflect no matter where on the body the reflector is. But on busy roads and streets, where full beam can’t be used, you should position your reflector below your waist, where the light can reach you and be reflected. Also, more reflectors are better than one. Putting them on legs and arms also gives movement, which further boosts your chance of being seen.

Remember that normal streetlights do not make you more visible to motorists, as reflectors only reflect light in the direction it came from. This means it goes up to the streetlight again, so it’s not visible to a driver.

How many reflectors should I wear?

You should wear at least one reflector on each side, so one on your right and left arm or the equivalent leg.

You should have at least one hanging reflector per side and reflector bands should be placed on both your left and right legs or arms. It is important that you think about positioning reflectors all the way around yourself, i.e. 360 degrees. This way, whichever way you turn, there is always an active reflective surface facing the motorist.

How long does a reflector last?

A reflector can last several years, depending on quality. At the start of every autumn, it’s important to evaluate whether your reflectors can still provide enough protection.

You can often decide whether you see any changes in the reflector’s material by looking at it closely. The easiest way to test an old reflector is to compare it to a new one. Hang them both up at eye level in a dark room and shine a torch at them from four metres away. If the old reflector gives off less light than the new one, it’s time to change it.

Remember that reflectors/reflective materials are fine optical products that should be treated carefully. This allows them to retain their optical effects longer and thus extends their life.

All reflective materials and reflective products are now exposed to wear and various environmental tests as part of the quality-assurance process. Certification of a reflector is therefore a guarantee of its long-term sustainability, as well as its quality and reflective performance.