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Historic Breakthroughs in Traffic Safety Innovation

3M Full Cube Technology

From padded dashboards and breakaway light poles to seat belts and air bags, improving traffic safety has been an ongoing objective for more than 50 years. Now a major improvement in roadway sign brightness joins this march of safety innovation: 3M Full Cube Technology, the first material with true, 100% efficient optical elements. Incorporated into 3M™ Diamond Grade™ DG3 Reflective Sheeting, 3M Full Cube Technology nearly doubles the effective brightness of roadway signs. Studies have found that where more visible signs are installed, crash numbers have fallen 25 to 46% in a three- to six-year period.1 And one agency estimated a benefit-to-cost ratio of greater than 10 to 1 for brighter sign upgrades.

1956 1956

The Padded Dashboard
In an unprecedented effort to improve automobile safety, Robert McNamara of Ford Motor Company pushed for development of the “Lifeguard” package—which included revolutionary padded dashboards—for select 1956 Ford vehicles.1 Over in Europe, safety-obsessed Volvo also added padded dashes to its Amazon model that year.

1964 1964

The Seat Belt
After years of being optional in various makes and models of both U.S. and foreign vehicles, dual front-seat lap belts were finally made standard equipment in 1964 by all four major U.S. automobile manufacturers.2 The NHTSA has estimated that seat belts save 10,000 lives each year in the United States alone.

1975 1975

The Breakaway Light Pole
In 1975, AASHTO Standard Specifications for Structural Supports for Highway Signs, Luminaires and Traffic Signals called for significant improvements in the breakaway feature of light poles, which had been installed since the late 1960s to reduce injuries and fatalities on U.S. highways.3

1990 1990

The Air Bag
Offered by Ford, General Motors and Chrysler in various vehicles from the mid-1970s through the 1980s, air bags were first made standard equipment across an entire line of automobiles by Chrysler in 1990.4

2008 2008

3M Full Cube Technology
In 2005, 3M scientists developed the first “full cube” reflective sheeting with 100% efficient optical elements, essentially doubling the brightness of roadway signs. In 2008, 3M made this technology available globally. Studies found that where more visible signs were installed, crash numbers fell by 25 to 46% over a three- to six-year period.5

1 The Outsider. How Robert McNamara changed the automobile industry
3 TRB Research Record No. 679, Roadside Safety Appurtenances
5 Ripley, D. A., Howard R. Green Company, ITE AB04H313, Quantifying the Safety Benefits of Traffic Control Devices—Benefit-Cost Analysis of Traffic Sign Upgrades, 2005 Mid-ContinentTransportation Research Symposium Proceedings