Suffolk alters signs after fears of animal cruelty confusion on the roads

An old cats eyes sign. Picture: APA

An old cats eyes sign. Picture: APA - Credit: Archant

Roads chiefs in Suffolk have dropped the traditional signs warning drivers: “Cats eyes removed” after claims they could be mistaken as animal cruelty.

A new road sign with the less ambiguous message. Picture: APA

A new road sign with the less ambiguous message. Picture: APA - Credit: Archant

The advice that a road was being resurfaced – and the familiar reflective studs in the middle temporarily taken up – has often been misinterpreted, especially by children and tourists from abroad.

Now the signs have been replaced with new ones that warn road users: “Caution road studs removed.”

The change has been welcomed by visitors – American Frances Knobel, from Florida, on holiday in Hadleigh, admitted she was stunned when she first saw the cats’ eyes warning.

“I had no idea – I had to stop the car and go back to see if I had read the sign correctly. It didn’t make any sense and seemed very gruesome that people would boast that poor domestic animals were being so horribly mistreated.

A cats eye/road stud in position. Picture: APA

A cats eye/road stud in position. Picture: APA - Credit: Archant

“A local explained that it was name that Brits gave to the light-reflecting rubber pads that reflect headlights.”

Mum Rebecca Brewer, from Ipswich, said: “I have a five-year-old daughter who was very upset the first time she saw the sign – she really thought that cruel people were torturing cats. I had to explain to her what it meant – and that our pet cat was quite safe.”

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Now Suffolk County Council has switched to the new and less ambiguous warning sign. A spokesman said: “The term road studs is one we now use as standard.”

He said the term cats eyes was now recognised as a trademark, so a more generic term was used across the country: “This covers all types of studs, unlike the commercial term ‘Cat’s Eyes’.”

Cats eyes inventor Percy Shaw. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Cats eyes inventor Percy Shaw. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

And he added: “We have not received any reports from the public in connection with confusion over these signs.”

A spokesman for the Retroreflective Equipment Manufacturers Association said: “From the early days of the cat’s eyes, which are still used to this day, road studs are to be found throughout the UK road network.

“They fulfil a very important function in providing guidance to drivers in conditions of poor visibility.”

Cats eyes were invented by Yorkshireman Percy Shaw who came up with idea after a narrow brush with death in the 1930s.

Driving home from work on a foggy dark night he encountered a cat one as his headlamps picked up the reflection from the animal’s eyes and had he not seen it he may well have driven off the road and crashed.

He spent the following months trying to develop a man-made version of the cat’s eye and after many trials and failures he eventually took out patents on his invention in March 1935.

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