Driver safety has improved greatly over the years with the advent of reflective surfaces on roads that highlight the delineation of lanes and shoulders. Reflective clothing is also helpful in alerting drivers to bicyclists, runners, and emergency workers on roadways. American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Class 2 guidelines even specify the exact types of reflective clothing to be worn by any public employee working on the side of the road to protect them from collisions. But police officers still die.
Glenn Bushee of Brite-Strike was inspired to find a solution to this problem when Mel Dyer, a part-time police officer working for the Duxbury (Mass.) Police Department, was killed while directing traffic at night. Bushee lives in Duxbury, and he'd worked with Dyer before. He wanted to find a new solution to keep the same thing from happening again.
"I direct traffic at night, in the day, in the shadows, and I wear all the latest reflective gear, but it's never quite enough," says Bushee, himself a part-time police officer. "I started to think, I know I could do something better."
It took the better half of a year for Bushee to come up with a workable idea: LED light strips in a reflective glove for a one-two punch of visibility. Another year was spent improving on the LED light strips the company already had and developing a material that would have the desired effect in combination with the lights.
"With our LED light strips that fit inside of it, the material acts as a lens on a lighthouse to actually project the light out," Bushee explains. He calls it Active Illumination Reflective technology. The colored, semi-transparent material is made up of a series of tiny little panes. "One's a window, one's a mirror. The ones that are windows let the light out, and mirrors reflect the light back," he says. In addition, tiny lines on the "panes," situated one way on the "mirrors" and in a perpendicular version on the "windows," flatten out the light and create a prismatic effect.
On the palm of each glove is a red stop sign pocket made of this material that holds two LED strips, and on the back of the hand are two green light strips that hold one LED strip each. The fingers on the back of the glove have additional green reflective/refractive material. Each removable LED light strip, similar to the company's APALS, has a simple button. Pressing it changes the mode: rapid flash, slow flash, and steady-on. A fourth press on the button turns the LED strip off. The combination allows motorists to see the light up to at least one-quarter mile away, and the replaceable lithium batteries last for up to 35 hours.
With so many distracted drivers out there focusing on texting or GPS directions instead of the road, Bushee worries about them unintentionally moving toward a police car's blinding flashing lights "like a moth to a flame" and hitting a police officer in the dark. Because of this, he suggests turning on the less bright side lights of a vehicle so that drivers can better see the lights of the gloves and follow any visual instructions from a police officer wearing them.
Not only do the gloves light up and reflect light, they provide visual cues not found on traditional gloves used for directing traffic. "You put up the red stop sign, it says stop. If you turn your hand around it has green, and people understand it means go, even if they don't speak English" says Bushee. "People have actually stopped and told police officers wearing the gloves, 'I knew exactly what you wanted me to do; those are the greatest things I've seen.'"
This is a labor of love for Bushee. One he hopes will help protect all public safety workers. "I really believe it's something every EMT, firefighter, and police officer needs to use because it can keep people safe," says Bushee. "I'm more proud of this patent and product than anything else. It's important to me to get them out there."