It has taken many years but fluorescent markings are finally beginning to appear on more and more police, fire and ambulance vehicles around the country. While the response vehicles of some emergency services still wear the traditional Sillitoe scheme or a stylised variation of the checkered pattern, their vehicles are slowly being enhanced by the addition of fluorescent stripes and panels – usually in yellow-green or red/orange colour schemes.
Colour, pattern or lighting creep refers to the gradual conversion over time of new marking or lighting styles onto emergency vehicles. Creep is seen when agencies that have previously rejected changes to their markings begin to display small modifications to the colours/patterns/warning lights on vehicles or alternatively they fully adopt new designs that are similar to other national or international agencies. The changes are usually slow but often driven by changing attitudes within an agency or an acceleration of the popularity of a design. Occasionally a rapid industry-wide cascade (rather than a creep) can be brought about by revised regulations e.g. chevron markings in the US after NFPA 1901 and NFPA 1917 were published or the recent change to yellow body colour + Battenburg markings on St John’s ambulances in New Zealand.
I have been critical of some the new hybrid marking designs appearing on emergency vehicles in Australia over the last few years. In the last 12 months I have noticed that some agencies are beginning to add secondary fluorescent elements to the primary marking designs. In many cases the changes have been minor but in some agencies they have been more significant. It appears that internal attitudes are beginning to move forward within a number of agencies…..agencies that have previously rejected any suggestions whatsoever that the traditional dark coloured and complex pattern markings do not provide effective visibility and conspicuity for their vehicles, and subsequently increased safety for their staff.
A list of the agencies adding fluorescent colour to their marking schemes appears below. They should be congratulated for a good start but also encouraged to further improve their vehicle marking schemes to maximise their visibility, conspicuity, recognition and ultimately staff safety.
- New South Wales Police – the addition of fluorescent red/orange panels to the door sills, rear bumper and boot lid of the Highway Patrol cars, Local Area command cars and some motorcycles. The coloured panels really stand out in daylight conditions on the roadway, however the hybridised Sillitoe and badge design on the highway cars still needs a tidy-up. I have also seen some Highway Patrol vehicles using simultaneous flashing red and blue warning lights when parked which are visible at much greater distances than the alternating red/blue light bars.
- Australian Capital Territory Police – have started using fluorescent panels of yellow/green on the rear of their usually dark coloured traffic sedans and wagons. This significantly improves the rearward vehicle visibility, especially during traffic stops. Like NSW Police the overall hybridised flowing checkered-flag Sillitoe pattern needs work.
- Queensland Police motorcycles have been fitted with fluorescent yellow to the front fairings and some have yellow-green or red/orange on the fuel tank and panniers.
- Tasmania Police are increasing the use of yellow-green fluorescent stripes around the front, sides and rear of their vehicles. They have been trialling various layouts for many years.