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Cats Eyes and Road safety

Cats Eyes

Last updated  8 July 2022 | Published 27 March 2017


It was on a dark and foggy night in 1933 that the idea for Cats Eyes was dreamed up by Percy Shaw, an English inventor and business man from Boothtown in Halifax, North Yorkshire.

Mr Shaw would often drive home late at night in the dark using the glare of his headlights bouncing off the tramlines to navigate. One night he was unable to do this as part of the lines had been taken up for repairing. It was when he caught his headlight reflecting in the eyes of a cat that the idea for Cats Eyes was born.


The History of Cats Eyes

Realising that driving at night was becoming a more common occurrence the inventor in Shaw decided that something needed to be done to make the roads safer at night. After many attempts at the design he applied for a patent in 1934. In 1935 he went on to found Reflecting Roadstuds Limited, the Halifax based company that would manufacture his patented design. Catseye is the trademark of the company which uses a reflective lens that had been invented for use in advertising signs by Richard Hollins Murray 6 years earlier. It was Mr Murray’s invention that had a major influence on Shaw’s ideas

In 1937, the company won a contract from the government to mass produce the Cat’s Eyes, which were made with 4 glass beads in a rubber moulding and a cast iron base. Not only did they need to reflect the headlights, they also needed to be tough enough to withstand being driven over without being damaged. It wasn’t really until the blackouts of World War II that the true value of Shaw’s invention was realised.

Shaw received an OBE in 1965. In 2006 Catseye was voted in the top 10 British design icons, the list included designs like Concorde, Mini and the World Wide Web.


Why do we have cats eyes?

Cat’s eyes are a vital tool when it comes to road safety, they help drivers to navigate the roads easily at night. Cats eyes are manufactured in several different colours and each colour plays an important role when it comes to our roads. The first Cat’s eyes were only manufactured on one colour, White and were used to separate the lanes or the middle of the road.

Red Cat’s eyes warn motorists that they are close to the left-hand side of the road. They are placed along the hard shoulder on motorways and dual carriages. They can also be found on the shoulder on major A and B class roads.

Amber Cat’s eyes are placed to warn drivers on dual carriageways or motorways of the central reservation

Green Cat’s eyes mark the edge of the main carriageways, the joining or leaving slip roads of junctions and the entrances and exits of any lay-bys.

White Cat’s eyes are used on Double white lines, where no overtaking is permitted, and on the centre of roads which lack street lighting.


Next time you see cat’s eyes on the road, you’ll be much more able to appreciate how they came to be, and what a great job they do keeping drivers safe when driving at night.


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