Among the many amazing inventions of Finland is one that's probably not so ground-breaking for some and rather simple yet it saves lives. Safety reflectors are small, shiny objects that glow in the dark and can be used as adhesive strips, armbands, key rings, etc. This eye-opening invention has reshaped the Finns’ ability to innovate, survive and evolve in such a way that they can live side by side with nature, especially during winter.
The nights of and autumn and winter in Finland starting in October can be tough and extremely dark. It would then be hard for drivers to notice the pedestrians if they are walking along the road or crossing the street, putting both pedestrians and drivers at the high risk of an accident.
Therefore, it's crucial for people to shine brightly and be visible. Carrying reflectors (made of fluorescent materials) will help them shine by reflecting the light back to its source, which in turn provides a way for the drivers to see the moving people in the dark.
The story behind the invention
It might come as a surprise to everyone that the pedestrian reflector was invented in the early 1950s by a Finnish farmer who simply wanted to protect his cart horses and trailers from car collisions in the dark. The name behind the simple yet brilliant solution is Arvi Lehti.
Later on, Arvi, with the help of his friends in the Traffic Police, wanted to develop a method which can also be used for pedestrians, which then lead to the first version of reflectors. His son Taisto Lehti helped grow the business by making various types of plastic products including reflectors of different shapes.
Finally, the snowflake reflector was designed by Kalervo Suomela in 1973 and was considered as a Finnish classic. Today, reflectors are very popular and used not only in Finland but also exported to several countries such as Switzerland, Japan, and some African countries.
The importance of using reflectors
The use of safety pedestrian reflectors can help the drivers see the moving passengers or cyclists better in the dark, especially in bad weather conditions such as rain and fog, snow or storm, which greatly affects visibility and makes it harder for drivers to see street lights, signs, and other moving objects.
Reflectors are meant to protect people and pets even from a far distance. Driving in such conditions can be quite stressful and frustrating so it might be very difficult for drivers to stay calm and have a peace of mind.
What makes a reflector suitable and how to use it
There are reflectors of various shapes and sizes that one can buy and attach to the clothes using a pin: trousers, jackets, bags, backpacks, or even to children’s prams. There are also reflector stickers for bike helmets or vest reflectors for people and pets.
There are even reflective dog collars, bags, scarves, gloves, or hats made of reflective materials. It's better to wear more reflectors to improve visibility. Use reflectors on both sides of ankles and wrists. Using only pin reflectors on clothes or bags is not enough because they are usually small and hard to see especially from afar and in bad weather conditions.
Wearing reflector vests is very helpful to since it covers a larger area of the body, plus possibly more reflectors on arms, legs, gloves, hats, scarves, bags, etc. The more reflectors, the better you're seen.
If you have children, it is important to keep reflectors attached to their outdoor clothes, bags, helmets, etc. In Finland, most of the children’s outdoor clothes for winter already have reflectors on them, but it's always wiser to increase visibility and use more reflectors such as vests and reflective stickers on bike helmets.
Law on the use of reflectors and reality
By law (Road Traffic Code), it's compulsory for moving people in the dark to use the appropriate reflectors but not all pedestrians respect this rule. This is a very useful practical invention that's not only easy to use but most importantly, provides safety and removes stress and frustration from drivers.
There are free pin-reflectors in some cashiers of supermarkets. Finns are constantly creating new various tools and methods of making pedestrians visible and noticed in the dark. One example is the reusable shopping bags of supermarkets made from reflective materials. Another example is the reflective fabric which can then be cut and sewed to jackets or other outdoor clothes. Check out the various colorful and fashionable designs of reflectors at Design Reflectors.
While fun and fashionable reflectors are nice, in the end, it all boils down to safety. Everyone should be seen and everyone should be safe.