Patent application title: Reflective roadway warning system indicating incorrect vehicular travel direction
Scott Croce (E. Brunswick, NJ, US)
IPC8 Class: AE01F906FI
Class name: Traffic director vibration inducing member (e.g., road stud, speed bump) including reflector
Publication date: 2011-04-07
Patent application number: 20110081201
A plurality of reflector devices each having a reflective element, the
reflector devices embeddable in the roadway of an off ramp, or in the
curbing of an off ramp, and/or in the guardrails adjacent an off ramp or
other one way street, the reflector warning system providing a visible
alarm or alert to a driver in day or night conditions or low visibility
that the driver has mistakenly or inadvertently turned his vehicle onto
and is proceeding up an off ramp or other road way to another
intersecting highway, and as such will encounter oncoming opposing
traffic such that the driver can stop, reverse, and correct the mistake.
The reflector devices embedded in the roadway depending upon their
spacing will also provide a significantly tactile feedback to the driver
that he is proceeding in the wrong direction by causing a vibration to
the tires which is transmittable to the steering wheel.
1. A reflective roadway warning system providing visual and tactile
warning indications to a driver that the vehicle is proceeding in an
incorrect traffic lane, said reflective roadway warning system
comprising: a plurality of housings, each housing having a lower road
engaging surface, an upper bifurcated surface, having a first rearward
facing member, and a second forward facing member forming an obtuse angle
with each other, said first member and said second member forming an
acute angle with said lower surface, and two opposing side walls, said
second member of said upper bifurcated surface forming an acute angle
with said lower surface, said acute angle greater than said acute angle
formed by said second member of said upper bifurcated surface and said
lower surface, said second member of said upper bifurcated surface having
positioned thereon a reflective warning element, said second member of
said upper bifurcated surface having a height sufficient to impart a jolt
to a wheel of a vehicle passing over said housing in a direction from
said second member toward said first member of said bifurcated upper
2. The reflective roadway warning system in accordance with claim 1 wherein said reflective element has a text indicia imprinted thereon warning of said incorrect travel direction.
3. The reflective roadway warning system in accordance with claim 1 wherein each of said housings is secured to said roadway in a special pattern so as to sequentially engage the wheels of a vehicle to provide tactile sensation to the driver.
4. The reflective roadway warning system in accordance with claim 1 wherein said housing of said reflective roadway warning systems are fabricated from recycled tires.
5. The reflective roadway warning system in accordance with claim 1 wherein said acute angle formed by said first member of said upper bifurcated surface and said lower surface is insufficient so as not to impart any tactile sensation to a vehicle wheel passing over said housing from said first member toward said second member of said upper bifurcated surface.
6. The reflective warning system in accordance with claim 1 wherein said housing has a pair of angled spaced apart legs extending outwardly from said second forward facing member on either side of said reflective warning element.
 Applicant claims the benefit of provisional application Ser. No. 61/278,005, filed Oct. 2, 2009.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 1. Field of the Invention
 The present invention relates to roadway intersections and vehicular traffic, and in particular to a permanent or portable warning system providing visual and harsh tactile feedback to a driver that the driver is mistakenly proceeding in a traffic lane dedicated to traffic traveling in the opposing direction.
 2. Description of the Prior Art
 Drivers of vehicles encounter various traffic patterns every time they are behind the wheel. In many instances, one of these driving patterns is a one way street in an urban area, or perhaps a one way lane in a multi-story parking structure. Still further, various roadways as interstate highways are divided and have a plurality of on and off ramps for access thereto. The one thing in common with all of these one lane roadways, lanes, or the like, is that they eventually intersect with another roadway which may or may not be one way, but which allows a driver and vehicle on that intersecting roadway the possibility of entering the one way roadway or street either correctly or against opposing traffic.
 Applicant's invention has application to all of these situations where one encounters a one way road, street, or thoroughfare or private lane. It has particular safety implications with respect to on/off ramps associated with limited access, multi-lane divided highways. Therefore, while Applicant's invention will be described with particular attention to the on/off ramps, it will be recognized by those of ordinary skill in the art that Applicant's invention can also be utilized and installed with respect to one way streets, avenues, or lanes, and as temporary or permanent speed deterrents at accident scenes, or vulnerable streets. The intersection of roadways present a variety of different traffic control mechanisms to control the flow and turning of traffic. A simply rural intersection of two, two lane roads may present opposing stop signs on one of the roads, possibly a 4-way stop, or further possibly a yellow blinking light, or red blinking light, or perhaps a stop light signal (red, green, yellow). In urban areas, the use of stop signs and full traffic light signals (red, green, yellow) are more commonplace.
 The intersection of major roadways such as interstate highways, are normally constructed with large, sweeping on and off ramps to control the flow of traffic and allow the drivers to change interstates, and change directions without interrupting the flow of traffic. These types of intersections are commonly referred to as cloverleafs, and the long sweeping ramps are designed to guide vehicles from one interstate roadway to another interstate roadway, and into the direction which the driver wishes to proceed. These long sweeping ramps are normally designed to allow the vehicles to merge off of one interstate, follow the long sweeping ramp, and merge into the intersection interstate in the direction which the driver wishes to travel. Due to their merging qualities, it is very difficult for a driver to mistakenly proceed in the wrong direction up an off ramp and into opposing traffic.
 However, there are many intersections where the off ramp and the on ramp connecting a secondary street to a major highway are adjacent to each other and these type of ramps require the driver to make a 90 degree turn from the secondary street onto the respective on ramp in order to gain access to the major thoroughfare. As previously stated, in many instances, this on ramp is immediately adjacent the off ramp which intersects the secondary road and which off ramp requires a vehicle exiting the major highway to come to a stop at a "T" intersection before proceeding.
 In normal daylight hours and in normal traffic conditions, a driver can usually visually discern the difference between an off ramp and an on ramp because of the high volume of traffic and its direction of flow. However, in times of low traffic volume or decreased visibility such as at night, or in situations where the driver is unfamiliar with the territory or becomes confused and disoriented, it is very possible and has frequently occurred that such a driver will make a 90 degree turn onto the off ramp as opposed to the on ramp, and proceed in this direction in opposition to the correct flow of traffic and may not realize the mistake which has been made until the errant driver is facing head on traffic with possible calamitous results.
 These T-intersection off ramps and on ramps are most often marked with a sign on the off ramp which indicates to the driver that if the driver has turned into the off ramp, he is proceeding the wrong way. As previously stated during periods of high volume traffic and day light hours, such a sign may be easily seen or the off ramp may be easily discerned from the flow of traffic. However, at night, in times of low traffic volume or low visibility, these wrong way signs are often overlooked or not seen.
 There therefore has been a need for a warning system which is inexpensive and which can be established in the off ramp roadway or adjacent thereto to provide a visual and tactile indicator to a driver that he has mistakenly positioned his vehicle in a lane which will place him in opposition to oncoming traffic. Such a system would immediately warn the driver of the situation so as to cause the driver to correct the mistake without proceeding onto what could become a dangerous or life threatening situation for the driver as well as for oncoming traffic. Applicant's device would provide such a visual and uncomfortably tactile indicator and depending upon the size and spacing of Applicant's device, would also provide a tactile indicator causing a tire impact transmittable to the steering wheel.
OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION
 An object of the present invention is to provide a novel visual and tactile warning system for embodiment in the center of the roadway and random placement in the roadway of an off ramp or positioned adjacent the roadway in the curb or guard rail, which provides a visual and disturbingly tactile warning to a driver that the driver is proceeding in a direction where he will encounter opposing traffic.
 Another object of the present invention is to provide for a novel warning system which is easily installed and requires minimal upkeep.
 A still further object of the present invention is to provide for a novel warning system for a driver proceeding a wrong way against traffic which will immediately notify the driver of his mistake and allow him to correct the situation.
 A still further object of the present invention is to provide for a novel warning system for a driver proceeding a wrong way against traffic which will tactilely warn the driver of his mistake as the wheels of his vehicle encounter the warning devices and transmit an uncomfortable impact to the steering wheel.
 A still further object of the present invention is to provide for a novel warning device which may be permanently implanted preferably into the roadway, or curb, or adjacent guardrail to warn a driver that he is traveling in the wrong direction on a ramp.
 A still further object of the present invention is to provide for a novel warning system which is portable and which may be disbursed by police departments or construction crews to transmit a visual and/or tactile warning to drivers passing through a construction site or possible accident scene.
 A still further object of the present invention is to provide the vertical, or near vertical, section of the speed bump with a highly reflective surface, and the word "STOP" in reflective red bold letters against this reflective surface.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 A plurality of reflector devices each having a reflective element, the reflector devices embeddable in the roadway of an off ramp, or in the curbing of an off ramp, and/or in the guardrails adjacent an off ramp or other one way street, the reflector warning system providing a visible alarm or alert to a driver in day or night conditions or low visibility that the driver has mistakenly or inadvertently turned his vehicle onto and is proceeding up an off ramp or other road way to another intersecting highway, and as such will encounter oncoming opposing traffic such that the driver can stop, reverse, and correct the mistake. The reflector devices embedded in the roadway depending upon their spacing will also provide a significantly tactile feedback to the driver that he is proceeding in the wrong direction by causing a severe jolting to the tires which is transmittable to the steering wheel, causing the driver to reduce speed and determine that the vehicle is proceeding in the wrong direction.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 These and other objects of the present invention will become apparent, particularly when taken in light of the following illustrations wherein:
 FIG. 1 is a top view of a typical roadway intersection in which the on ramps and off ramps of a major thoroughfare intersect with a secondary road at a T-intersection, which type of intersection presents the problems addressed herein;
 FIG. 2 is a side cross-section view of a reflector device of a warning system of the present invention;
 FIG. 3 is a top view of a reflector device of the warning system of the present invention;
 FIG. 4 is a front view of a reflector device of the warning system of the present invention;
 FIG. 5 is a perspective view of an off ramp of FIG. 1 illustrating the alternative placements of the warning system illustrated in FIGS. 2, 3, and 4;
 FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a second embodiment of a reflector device of the warning system designed to be embedded in a roadway; and
 FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a roadway incorporating the reflector element of the warning system of FIG. 6.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
 FIG. 1 is an overhead view of the typical roadway intersection which involves the use of on ramps and off ramps and which is exemplary of the situation which Applicant's invention would solve.
 In the FIG. 1 hypothetical situation, a major thoroughfare 10 traverses north to south with a central divider 12 and multiple lanes in both the north direction 14 and the south direction 16. A secondary road 20 traverses east/west, and is an undivided highway having at least one lane 21 and 22 in each direction but possibly multiple lanes in each direction with centrally disposed turn lanes. Engineers and planners wish to provide a means for traffic on the secondary roadway 20 to ingress the major overhead thoroughfare 10 traversing north/south. This is typically done with a plurality of on and off ramps. In the present situation, people on the secondary road traveling either east or west, and wishing to enter the southbound roadway 16 of the major thoroughfare 10 would either make a right turn if traveling east, or a left turn if traveling west, at location A in order to enter the on ramp 24 to the south bound lane 16.
 Traffic on the secondary road 20 wishing to enter the northbound lane 14 of the major thoroughfare 10 would make either a left hand turn if traveling west, or a right hand turn if traveling east onto on ramp 26 at C in order to access the northbound lane 14 of major thoroughfare 10.
 Those vehicles traveling on major thoroughfare 10 in either the north or south direction may wish to exit major thoroughfare 10 in order to access secondary road 20. The traffic in the southbound lane 16 is accomplished by an off ramp 28 which directs traffic off of the southbound lane 16 and down to a T-intersection B with secondary road 20. The T-intersection B will result in a full stop for the exiting vehicle and possibly a response to a traffic control device before proceeding.
 Northbound traffic 14 on the major thoroughfare 10 would have a more direct exit ramp 30 allowing the vehicle to merge off to the right side of the northbound lane 14 and enter the off ramp 30 again ending in a T-intersection D with the secondary road, the vehicle being subject to a full stop and possible traffic control mechanisms such as lights.
 The particular traffic pattern described works well for individuals familiar with the intersection, and familiar with the traffic patterns. It may present some problems to the uninitiated, but these are easily alleviated, particularly in daylight hours when one can observe the flow of traffic and determine which streets are one way and which streets are opposing directions.
 However, the situation presents dangerous consequences in times of low traffic volume, low visibility, darkness, and inclement weather, coupled with the driver's possible unfamiliarity with the area or inattention. In such a situation, a car traveling west on secondary road 20 or a car traveling east on secondary road 20 wishing to enter either the northbound or southbound lanes of the major overhead thoroughfare 10, may miss the on ramp entrances 24 and 26 and mistakenly turn into what are the off ramps 28 and 30 from the major thoroughfare 10. Normally there would be a sign at the intersection of these off ramps 28 and 30 with the secondary road at locations B and D which would warn the driver with the admonition "WRONG WAY". However, at night, in low visibility situations, in low traffic volume situations, and in situations where the driver is not completely familiar with the traffic patterns, those drivers on the east/west secondary road 20 may mistakenly make a turn into the off ramp 28 and 30 of the major thoroughfare 10 and find themselves heading directly into oncoming traffic, if not on the off ramp 28 and 30, on the major thoroughfare 10 once they merge into the lane heading in the wrong direction and into opposing traffic.
 FIG. 1 illustrates but one traffic pattern in which the dangerous situation which Applicant seeks to address could occur. It will be recognized by those of ordinary skill in the art, that the apparatus described herein, can have application to any traffic pattern or situation in which a particular road, street, lane or pattern is designed for one way direction traffic, and Applicant's apparatus would serve as a visual and physical alarm and alert to a vehicle who had mistakenly entered such a one way thoroughfare in the wrong direction.
 FIG. 2 is a side cross-sectional view of the reflector device 50 of the warning system of the present invention, FIG. 3 is a top view, and FIG. 4 is a front view. The reflector device 50 includes a housing member 52 preferably of solid one piece construction of either high density polymer or metal or of recycled tires. The housing member 52 includes a base wall 54, and an acutely angled top wall 56 which intersects with base wall 54 and sidewalls 55 and 57. Front wall 58 defines a recessed slot 60 within which a reflective element 62 is positioned and maintained, either by an adhesive on its rear wall 64, or by means of overlapping lips 66 and 68 integrally formed with the housing member 52. The reflector device 50 is illustrated in FIG. 2 is positioned on a roadway 28 or 30. The normal flow of traffic on roadway 28 or 30 is indicated by the arrow 70. The reflector devices 50 are positioned in the roadway such that they present little obstruction or resistance to the flow of traffic in that its acutely angled upper face provides a non-resistant path to a vehicle tire, should a vehicle tire pass over the reflector device 50. The reflective element 62, is not visible to traffic traveling on the roadway in the correct direction. The reflective element 62 is visible only to vehicles which mistakenly enter the roadway heading in a direction opposite to that indicated by arrow 70, and since the multiplicity and placement cause bumping and shock, the reflective element 62 and reflector device 50 provides a visual and physical alarm in the form of wheel impact to alert to the driver that he is traveling in the wrong direction on this particularly roadway.
 The reflector device 50 can be secured to the roadway in one of many various procedures. As illustrated in FIG. 2, the bottom wall 54 of the housing member, is formed with a plurality of depending legs 72 and 74 which can be physically embedded into the macadam or concrete roadway. Alternatively, the housing member could be secured to the surface of the roadway by means of an adhesive layer 76, or the adhesive layer could be used in combination with the depending legs 72 and 74.
 In one embodiment, the multiple numbers of reflector devices 50 could be positioned and/or embedded in the roadway, in the middle of the roadway, providing an errant driver with a straight line of reflective elements 62. However, the reflector devices 50 could be placed in the roadway in the random manner, as illustrated in FIG. 5. The reflector devices 50 could also be positioned in the roadway in locations to unmistakably optimize their possibility of being in the tire path of an errant vehicle. In this situation the errant vehicle is subjected not only to a visual alarm, but a sudden physical alarm as the wheels of the vehicle are engaging the reflector devices 50 on its forward more angular face whereas traffic falling in the correct direction would engage the shallower angle of the rear face (see FIG. 5).
 As an alternative or supplemental placement of the reflector devices 50, they may be installed on the curbs 80 which define the edges of the roadway 28. In FIG. 5 the reflector devices 50 are illustrated as being secured to the inner vertical wall 82 of the curb or on the top horizontal surface 84 of the curb. Since most headlights on vehicles are biased toward the right hand curb, reflector devices 50 mounted thereon would supplement those positioned in the roadway.
 Finally, if the roadway in question were protected by a guardrail 90, the reflector devices 50 could also be secured to the road facing surface of the guardrail 90. The positioning on the guardrail could be achieved by the adhesive as used on the roadway or curbs, or alternatively, the depending legs of housing member 52 could be threaded so as to pass through apertures in the guardrail and be secured by a threaded nut or fastener on the reverse side as illustrated in FIG. 4.
 In all instances, the reflector device 50 would be installed in the same orientation as described with respect to FIGS. 2, 3, and 4, such that a driver traveling in the correct direction on the roadway would not see the reflective element and would thus proceed as normal. The driver and vehicle that had mistakenly entered the roadway traveling in the wrong direction would immediately be subject to the reflection of the reflective element 62 and if mounted in the roadway, a tire impact alerting the driver he had mistakenly or errantly entered a one way street or ramp in the wrong direction.
 FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a second embodiment of a reflector device 50A of the present invention. The reflector device is similar to that of the warning element or reflector device illustrated in FIGS. 2, 3, and 4, in that it includes a housing member 52A including a base wall 54A, an acutely angled top wall 56A which intersects with base wall 54A and sidewalls 55A and 57A, and a front wall 58A defining a recessed slot 60A for receipt of a reflective element 62A. Extending forwardly from front wall 58A are a pair of angled leg members 92 which taper from broad to narrow as they extend from the front wall 58A. These legs would be utilized in a warning or reflector device which was deployed in geographical areas which experience substantial snowfall. In such areas snow plowing operations most oftentimes proceed in the normal direction of traffic and thus the blade of a plow would easily pass over the acutely angled top wall 56 of the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 2 through 4, however, oftentimes in the interest of expediting removal, snow plows will move in a direction opposite to traffic. The extended tapered legs 92 would protect the reflector device in such a situation and condition.
 It will be recognized by those of ordinary skill in the art that there is no dimensional limits as to the size of the reflector devices. They are designed to be deployed on limited roadways and do not necessarily have to extend for the length of the roadway. The height of the front wall 58 or 58A need only be sufficient so as to include a reflective element. This could be accomplished with the height of one inch, however, if one wished to impart not only the visual warning, but the tactile warning, a height of between 2 and 3 inches would be optimum. Further, the reflective element can vary in color or be a standardized color or reflective foil, and may also be designed or cut to present an indicia such as the word "stop" or other suitable warning.
 FIG. 7 illustrates a layout of reflector devices 50 or 50A on the roadway ramp in such a manner that it will impart the impact to the tires of the vehicle and hence to the steering wheel. The arrangement insures that each of the tires of the vehicle independently encounters a warning device thus imparting a severe jolt or rocking sensation to the vehicle providing a tactile warning in addition to the visual warning that the driver is proceeding in a direction opposing traffic.
 The reflector device of the present invention, either embodiment 1 or embodiment 2, can be fabricated from any suitable material which will stand up to the rigors of having automobile tires passing over it on a regular basis. Therefore steel, or a high density polymer, or other suitable metal may be utilized in the fabrication. Additionally, the housing may also be fabricated from recycled tires which have been ground to a small particle size and used as a filler with a solid plastic, as nylon.
 Still further, in the preferred embodiment in which the reflector devices are positioned on the roadway, the front wall 58 or 58A in either embodiment should be slightly angled resulting in a slight angle of the reflector element. This allows for a self-cleaning effect of the reflector element during periods of rain.
 Therefore, while the present invention has been disclosed with respect to the preferred embodiments thereof, it will be recognized by those of ordinary skill in the art that various changes and modifications can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. It is therefore manifestly intended that the invention be limited only by the claims and the equivalence thereof.
Patent applications in class Including reflector
Patent applications in all subclasses Including reflector