What is a retroreflector and how does it work?

In the world of vehicle lighting, the retroreflector plays an indispensable role. This component ensures that the light from, for example, headlights is directly reflected back to the driver. This significantly increases visibility and thus safety on the road. So, when you are driving your car and your headlights shine on another vehicle or object with a retroreflector, it sends the light right back to you. As a result, you see the other vehicle or object much better.

Retroreflectors in vehicle lighting often use advanced materials such as glass or special plastics. These materials are developed to reflect light back to the source with high accuracy. The result? Significantly improved visibility and safety, especially in low light conditions such as at night or in bad weather.

Different types of reflectors

There are various types of reflectors. When it comes to colors, you quickly think of

  1. WhiteUsed for the front and sides of vehicles. They outline the vehicle's contours and increase visibility from the front and sides.
  2. RedMainly placed at the rear of the vehicle. They indicate the rear of the vehicle and can also be used on trailers.
  3. OrangeAmber)Often used for turn signals and can also be located on the side of the vehicle to indicate its width.

When you think about shapes and their tasks, the most popular ones are:


  1. Rectangular / Square: This shape is common for marking the back and sides of vehicles, including trucks and trailers.
  2. RoundThese are often used as side reflectors and sometimes as additional rear reflectors.
  3. TriangularMainly used to indicate that a vehicle is moving slowly. In some countries, this is mandatory for certain types of vehicles, such as tractors.
  4. StripThis type can be applied to the edges of a vehicle, such as a truck or trailer, to make the contours more visible.

Are retroreflectors mandatory?

In many European countries, retroreflectors are mandatory on certain types of vehicles. The specific requirements can vary depending on the type of vehicle, size, and usage. Typically, there are stricter requirements for heavier and larger vehicles like trucks and buses than for passenger cars. Generally, red retroreflectors are required at the rear of the vehicle, and white or amber ones at the front and sides.

Deze reflectoren moeten conform de lokale en internationale regelgeving zijn en vaak moeten ze een bepaald keurmerk hebben om te garanderen dat ze voldoen aan de veiligheidsnormen. In de Europese Unie moeten retroreflectoren bijvoorbeeld voldoen aan de ECE regulations.