Retro Reflective vs Reflective: The Difference

As the title suggests, in this article we take a look at the differences between two types of tape – the retro reflective sort and tape that is simply known in the industry as reflective.

Image Credit

Retro Is the Key

Put simply, it is the word ‘retro’ that makes all the difference when discussing the differences in such tape. Reflective surfaces include items such as mirrors, whereas a surface that is retro reflective can be those found on a bike or a vehicle reflector. The latter includes Chapter 8 chevrons, so called because they conform to a certain Chapter – 8, in fact – of the Department for Transport’s Traffic Signs Manual. Indeed, it is the actual meaning of the word retro – to go backwards or just back – which is key to understanding the difference. Reflective tape simply returns the light back to where it came from.

Image Credit

The Devil Is in the Detail

It’s worth going into the detail for a full understanding of the differences. So a mirror is reflective because it works by sending out light that it receives in a host of different directions, which is all dependent on where the light enters it. A good analogy is to imagine light as a ball: throw it at a wall and it would hit it and then ricochet at an angle in another direction. If the wall was curved, the ball would come back to you, making it retro reflective.

Safety First

Now we have established just how reflective and retro reflective tapes work, it is worth considering the next step, which is going to be more useful for you and your vehicle. In essence, as a domestic driver about town it is unlikely you will need to customise your pride and joy with reflective chevrons. However, if your line of work requires you and your vehicle to be on site or working in a motorway environment, the chances are you or your employer will equip your vehicle with them. There are plenty to choose from suppliers such as

The Right Side of the Law

It is definitely worth staying on the right side of the law. The government’s Traffic Signs Manual sets out the dos and the don’ts for traffic authorities when it comes to their use.