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I'm looking for the proper word for these things you wear to avoid being driven over by cars at night.

enter image description here

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I'd call it "false security". If you want to be seen at night you need a lot more than that. Even a couple of big highly-reflective armbands isn't much - I'd rather put my trust in proper jacket markings or keep off unlit roads. –  FumbleFingers Dec 11 '11 at 3:40
    
No, you are wrong sir. Wearing this thing renders you immortal, especially at crosswalks :) –  ihatetoregister Dec 21 '11 at 12:29

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Looks like a reflector, or more precisely, a safety reflector.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safety_reflector

Yeah, I know, kind of obvious.

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I know them as reflectors.

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Can't tell from photo ..

This is likely a "Cat's Eye' reflector, which has distinctive 90-degree angle (from each other) dual reflectors embedded.

This sends a strong light beam directly back towards any focused light source (eg. an approaching car's headlamps).

reference(s):

NZ: AA gives qualified support to cat's eye speed cameras

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Cat's eyes are specifically the things buried in roads with corner-cube reflectors. This is just specular retro-reflective material –  mgb Dec 11 '11 at 2:13
    
They ARE called that in the UK, but elsewhere the term is used for the material. –  david6 Dec 11 '11 at 2:27
    
In the UK the name catseye is a trademark of the company founded by the inventor Percy Shaw in 1934 patent.ipexl.com/GB/GB436290.html –  mgb Dec 11 '11 at 2:33
    
@david6: Do you have any sources to back up that usage? The basic principles of retro-reflection are the same in OP's object and cat's eyes, but you'd probably need a microscope to discern the equivalent to a single "cat's eye" in the coating of OP's object. –  FumbleFingers Dec 11 '11 at 3:35
    
I will need to search. I remember the material being developed (too late) for the Apollo program. But, I have seen tags of this stuff used on school bags in northern Germany, here in NZ, and also in Colorado (US). –  david6 Dec 11 '11 at 4:03

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