Consumer Reports says the least expensive way to be seen and safe at night is to add reflective material to your own clothing and gear. Wearing reflective material at night is recommended by the US Department of Transportation to reduce pedestrian and cycling injuries.
While white and bright-colored clothing increase visibility during the day but do very little in low-light and dark.
But how does it work?
Most surfaces scatter light. Retroreflection directs light back to its source. This makes for excellent for low light visibility.
Retroreflective sheeting uses tiny glass beads to reflect light. Made from optical-grade glass, these perfect microscopic spheres are coated on one side with aluminum and then organized aluminum-side down and adhered to material to create a reflective surface. The process allows light to bounce directly back to its source. No matter what angle the light strikes the material, the wearer is illuminated and seen.
Incoming light beams bend as they pass through the front surface of each glass bead and reflect off a mirrored surface behind the bead. The beam then passes back through the front surface and returns toward the light source. Retroreflective materials appear brightest to observers located near the light source, such as a car’s headlights and the driver. 3M™ pioneered the development of retroreflection sheetings over 50 years ago.