How effective is reflective tape? Not surprisingly there is a lot of grumbling in various industry circles over “big brother” government forcing the poor trucking and rail industries to spend a lot of money in compliance with installing reflective tape in various configurations on vehicles. However, studies have shown this reflective tape to be of primary importance in saving lives.

    In a landmark study published in March 2001, the NHTSA prepared a fleet of 3,820 semi-trailers with half to have the DOT conspicuity tape, and half to be without. The findings were stunning. In dark conditions crashes were reduced by 44%. In dark but lighted conditions crashes were reduced by 29%. This translates into 350 lives saved a year and 4,000 injuries prevented a year. The lower profile flatbed trailers saw an especially significant reduction with the application of reflective tape – by a reduction of 55%.   Having a firm control fleet both with and without reflective tape allowed the study to be prepared in real time, with actual road crashes tallied and compared. It’s important to be noted that clean tape reduced crashes by 53% but dirty tape only reduced crashes by only 27%. You gotta keep that tape clean and installed properly, drivers!

    Unfortunately, no such study has been undertaken by the railroad industry in determining the effectiveness of their FRA reflective tape. As in the DOT tape mandate, there was much controversy from the rail industry about implementing federal requirements for FRA tape to be installed on all rail cars. Folks grumbled that it should be the same DOT red and white tape as in the trucking industry, that reflective tape needed to be run horizontally instead of vertical and that the whole thing was another example of gov’t run amok.

    However, the railroad industry was confronted with a stark reality that every year 4,000 crashes happened between trains and highway vehicles. And 24% of those crashes happened right at grade crossings. In addition, train cars are typically painted in drab or black colors and in rural settings, there often isn’t even proper gates or lights. In such settings, a parked or moving train at an unmarked crossing is a disaster waiting to happen. Proper installation of bright white or yellow vertical markers “parading” by; reflected in a car’s headlights provides a striking visual warning to all approaching vehicles. There were expressive comments submitted to the FRA board from families that lost loved ones by running head-on into a train without even seeing it at all, about others following cars that ran into trains and had they not seen the impact ahead, would have also run right into an almost-invisible train sitting at a crossing.

    Clearly, reflective tape, both the DOT variety and the railroad FRA variety is needed to prevent deaths and injuries in the transportation industry. We encourage folks to shop around in looking for conspicuity reflective tape. While many internet companies charge steeply for one roll orders a little shopping can yield a huge variety. 11-7 or 6-6 spacing, full rolls or pre-cut (called kiss-cut) varieties are available. 3 year, 5 year, 7 year, and 10 year is available. Although yellow is far more popular, white FRA tape is fully legal and readily available from mainstream suppliers. Try looking a reflective tape specialist who offers a wide variety of price and options, such as Briargate Supply. www.briargatesupply.com

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