/ Motoring

The state of our roads – what’s happening to Catseyes?

Road studs, Wales

Driving on the motorway in the dark can be a hair-raising experience. Not because of other drivers, but because of a lack of working Catseyes (also called road studs). Have you spotted any failed reflective road studs?

When the weather conditions are tough – which, let’s face it, isn’t uncommon, even today there are warnings out for freezing fog – and you’re driving on a motorway at night, you rely on road studs to help keep you safe.

Night-time driving

A recent night time drive I had coming back from visiting family was really frightening. The road studs on a section of the motorway weren’t working.

Without the guidance from the reflective road studs, we struggled to see our lane in the dark during pouring rain. We cut our speed to match the conditions, but just didn’t feel safe.

Maybe we just happened to be unlucky and the road studs had recently failed. Or no one has bothered to report the problem.

But this was a major motorway that sees a lot of traffic, and I’d like to think that at least one person would have taken the time to report it.

Failed road studs

Asking around friends, family and colleagues, it seems this isn’t an uncommon experience.

Lots of people told me about their experience of being really scared, trying to peer through thick fog or driving rain, knowing that all it takes is one small mistake from either yourself or another driver and there will be a car accident.

Motorway driving is tricky enough, putting up with other drivers who insist on tailgating, random lane changing and not paying attention to their blind spots, without being unable to see the road. Even if your car is packed with the latest car safety features.

Reporting road problems

Finding who to report the problem to isn’t entirely straightforward, though I do now know more than I should about feline optical conditions.

In case you come across any failed road studs yourself, it will either fall under the jurisdiction of the relevant Highways Agency or the local council’s website.

Have you had a problem with road studs? Which road was it on? Did you report it and, if so, was it ever repaired?


This hasn’t been a problem for me, though all road markings seem to disappear in thick fog and then one can only drive with great caution and hope no one rams from behind. A small stretch of one motorway was, briefly, supplied with solar, self-illuminating cats eyes. These were brilliant in every sense, but they gradually disappeared and were never replaced. A cats eyes patent gave the inventor a penny for each one made, and I believe they are one of the most useful road aids ever invented. Any missing sections should be replaced as a matter of course and we shouldn’t have to report this problem.

Geoff Sheddick says:
25 January 2017

IMHO, fully functioning Cats’ Eyes transform night time and bad weather driving safety. Sadly, all too often, they do not seem to be replaced unless the road is re-surfaced, irrespective of whether or not the Cats’ Eyes themselves have lost much of their reflective capability, or have failed altogether.
The next best thing is of course regularly re-painted centre-line, lane, and road edge white lines, but the maintenance [aka repainting] of these on non-motorway roads is abysmal in Buckinghamshire – often not done until long after they have become virtually invisible even in daylight!
I have indeed tried reporting such worn away white lines to BCCHighways on a dangerous T junction, but it was many months before they were re-painted, and that appeared to be as a result of other road repairs.

Miles Stapleton says:
25 January 2017

Just one way that the cuts are destroying peoples’ lives.


A sadly uniformed political sound-bite worthy only of a third grade politician at PMQs…
1. Is there a general problem with missing reflectors – some respondents stated that there isn’t.
2. Are any missing reflectors really due to ‘cuts’ or perhaps just the lack of reporting?
3. ‘Destroying people’s lives’? Is there evidence of fatal accidents caused by lack of reflectors?


Cats eyes do make driving at night on an unlit road much more comfortable. Whether the lack of them has led to accidents should not be the only criterion; making the driving task less stressful is a good enough reason as far as I can see, particularly in tricky bits of road.

However, would we rather have cats eyes replaced, or potholes repaired? Or more money put into social care to release hospital beds? Personally I rather see extra money raised locally that was ringfenced for specific important jobs. A local income tax or a sales tax would be my contenders. We have to pay for what we need.

Scottie says:
31 January 2017

Try driving abroad in pouring rain when the reflective line markings are washed out and are difficult to see!


I have seen plenty of defective cat’s eyes but usually there are enough still working for safety. I guess it depends on how diligent the local council is. I am more concerned that many country roads lack a white line to show the nearside edge of the carriageway, often because it has not been reinstated after repairs.

We can thank Percy Shaw of Halifax for giving us the original glass cat’s eyes with their clever self-wiping mechanism, even though these have largely been replaced by modern reflective plastic versions.

Ian Hill says:
28 January 2017

The original cats’ eyes moved: every time a vehicle ran over it, it swabbed the eyes, and so wore out. Did Percy get another penny? Now the plastic ones are fixed, and I hope they will continue to work and keep clean.