Edge Striping on Amish Buggies: as important as the Tri-Color Triangle

The Safety Psychographics educational and demonstrator buggy as seen at night showing the 45 degree effectiveness of our Avery Type 4 edge striping… fluorescent yellow-green (optional) at the rear; white on the sides (and the front).

Safety Psychographics LLC distributes to the Amish trade not just our proven, award-winning Tri-Color Triangles(tm) but also 1″ wide white edge striping for additional protection for buggies and wagons at night. Fully outlining the contours of buggies is as important as our better triangle so we have made the push to reach such markets since 2021, helped by finding a new, reasonable source for effective retro-reflective film… the same type by the same manufacturer that supplies us for the T-CT.

Many Amish districts/churches are reluctant to want to use Our triangle, or even ANY triangle, owing to their interpretations of what is acceptable locally in their takes on custom or religion. We have recently* been pleased to ship over 1,500* feet of white striping for use as upgraded edge striping to a conservative Swartzentruber** district in Missouri that is happily finding that at least this better striping will go quite a ways in keeping their members safer at night than they were previously, which, according to friendly reports did not include triangle usage and having only a single kerosene lantern on the back. From contact with a T-CT dealer of ours in Jamesport, MO, this conservative district around Spickard, MO, had become aware that we could likely supply them with more effective striping than the 1937-technology 1st-generation “pre-engineer grade” striping they have been using. One complaint of theirs was that this earliest type of striping lost most of its retro-reflectivity in the rain, opening up their buggies to even greater risk of not being seen at night than if they had been using the 2nd-generation ” ‘true’ engineer grade” stripes. The histories and comparison of these products is covered here towards the end.

*1,500 ft. shipped June, 2021; less than a month later the same group re-ordered 1,500 more ft. to soon be 3,000 ft. tot.
**wikipedia.org/wiki/Swartzentruber_Amish Now, a little more on the Swartzentrubers and their buggies, their views on road safety and comparisons with regular Old Order Amish.

BRIGHT Buggies” – “Buggies in more materially progressive communities tend to be significantly more illuminated. Northern Indiana is one settlement where this is common. Brighter buggies are an unsurprising response to the all-too-common problem of road accidents resulting in injury and deaths. These buggies stand in sharp contrast to the plainest Amish buggies (meaning Swartzentruber), which have but a few meager strips of silver reflective tape, no SMV marker, and a single lantern hung on one side. The orange SMV marker is the most contentious object on Amish transport and perhaps in all of Amish society.  On the one hand there are those who are so deeply against using the triangle that they would rather go to jail than adorn their buggies with the worldly symbol (again, meaning Swartzentruber).” (Amish America)
Kentucky Amish Jailed — “Thursday came and went, unsurprisingly, with no change in the stance of Amish in Graves County, KY over the SMV triangle. As with the Amishmen jailed last September, the men had refused to pay fines for failure to display the orange Slow-Moving Vehicle triangle. The Kentucky Supreme Court is meant to take up the Swartzentruber SMV issue this year (2012). Sheriff DeWayne Redmon explained: ‘You get behind one of the buggies at night, you can’t see it… We’re citing them for their own safety as well as the safety of others.’ ” (from the Amish America website) Now, in greater detail: MAYFIELD, Ky. – A group of Amish men were sent to jail in western Kentucky Thursday for refusing to pay fines for breaking a state highway law that requires their horse-drawn buggies to be marked with orange reflective triangles. The men have a religious objection to the bright orange signs, which they say are flashy and conflict with their pledge to live low-key and religious lives. The men belong to a conservative breakaway group of Amish known as Swartzentruber. They live simply, with no electricity, plumbing or appliances. But in recent years they have been running afoul of the law here for refusing to use the triangles on their buggies, and some were sent to jail last year. The issue over the orange triangles has come up before in other states with Amish populations. Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania have allowed exemptions for the Swartzentrubers, and courts in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan have sided with them. But police and prosecutors in Kentucky say the orange triangles are the law because they help motorists see the buggies and avoid collisions. Of Kentucky’s 120 counties, Graves County has recorded the most violations for failure to use the orange triangles in the last five years, according to data obtained by The Associated Press. The county has recorded 57 of a total of 89 violations statewide since 2007. Perhaps the easiest way to tell a Swartzentruber church member is by their carriages.  Swartzentruber buggies do not carry the SMV triangle, reflecting Swartzentruber beliefs against wordly symbols and emphasis on reliance on God.  Swartzentruber buggies also use limited reflective tape and lamp lighting, in contrast to the often very highly illuminated Old Order Amish buggies.  Some higher-order Amish criticize the Swartzentrubers for their resistance to adopting safety symbols.  Swartzentruber buggies also lack windshields, mirrors, or electric lighting. (Amish America)

In light of all these differences and problems, what is especially enheartening about this story of the rolls and rolls of modern edge striping being ordered and used is that it is all happening in Missouri, the “Show Me” state… where new things have to be proven or at least seen to be believed. The dealer of ours in Jamesport happens to be our biggest volume Tri-Color TriangleTM dealer and now his Swartzentruber co-religionists 25 miles down the road in Spickard are one their way to being the largest group of Amish users of modern, effective edge striping… thereby to soon become the largest Amish district in the country to stay visible at night in this necessary way. What a way to show the Show Me state a thing or two about safety! Feel free to follow this part of Missouri’s lead and stay safe yourselves in these two respects!

Background on the importance of Edge Striping

It is our observations that edge striping of Modern, Bright material is just as important for buggy safety at night… or maybe even more so… than a good shape retro-reflecting triangle (hopefully ours). It goes hand-in-hand with flashing lights. Lights alone can be mistaken for a broken-down car on either side of the road until a motorist gets practically right up onto the buggy. Modern edge striping can much more quickly show that it’s a buggy IN the road and not a broken-down car on either SIDE of the road… very important in avoiding head-on collisions on 2-lane roads. Use this better edge striping on the fronts, rears and sides of your buggies!

Edge striping has been required for years on trucks and trailers… your Buggy’s Edge Striping is just as important… and here is the background about WHY…..

Government regulations call for red + white “Conspicuity Tape” (also called ‘contour striping’ and known as Edge Striping on buggies) on certain types of vehicles and trailers to help prevent traffic accidents, injuries, and deaths. The NHTSA estimates that, annually, these regulations help prevent between 191 and 350 accidental deaths, up to 5,000 injuries, and 7,800 crashes compared to fleets without conspicuity tape. From 3M:

“When trucks, trailers and other large commercial vehicles are more ‘reflective,’ they’re easier for other drivers to see at a distance— especially at night and in inclement weather— which can lead to fewer crashes, injuries and fatalities on our roads.
An economical way to introduce this enhanced ‘reflectivity’ on vehicles are conspicuity markings (sometimes called ‘contour markings’). These retro-reflective (the proper name) vehicle safety markings have become a requirement in many countries around the world dating as far back as the early 1990’s, and with good reason. With the right application, they can help your vehicle or fleet really stand out at a relatively low cost. In jurisdictions where conspicuity markings are applied to vehicles, traffic crashes, injuries and fatality rates improve. In the U.S. alone, truck collisions fell 58% after conspicuity was introduced. Of the collisions that occurred during darkness and twilight, 37% of impacts on a truck side and 41% of impacts on the truck rear were caused by the truck not having been recognized in time by other drivers involved in the crashes.

1,000 trucks were taken to be studied over a two-year period to evaluate the effectiveness of contour markings to help with early recognition and crash reduction. The results were significant: the control group with no reflective markings had 30 incidents of side or rear collisions at night, whereas only one crash occurred in the test group of trucks with contour markings.  ‘…the cost increase to specify higher-efficiency retro-reflective material can be reasonably expected to pay off by reducing crashes under some scenarios.
-FEMA Report, 2009.’

You owe it to yourself, your drivers and everyone on the road to upgrade your vehicles with the added visibility of conspicuity markings. Being ahead of the curve on adoption demonstrates a higher commitment to safety.

Retroreflective road safety solutions date back to the early 1930’s when 3M first invented ‘reflective’ tape using glass beads, and while the technology has evolved and improved drastically since then, the primary goal remains the same: bouncing light back to drivers to provide critical visual information to them for staying safe on the road.

High retro-reflectivity is critical to the performance of any conspicuity solution—but that retro-reflectivity shouldn’t be limited to only performing when light sources are pointed straight-on at the marking. In many cases, the angle at which a driver approaches a vehicle will depend on the area of roadway they are on. At a typical 4-way intersection where a  truck with a trailer is making a wide left-turn, other vehicles could be approaching it from virtually any angle.

For this reason, it’s imperative that the conspicuity markings you specify for your vehicles have a wide angularity— meaning that they can bounce back (“reflect”) light brightly even at tighter angles. Whether approaching from the rear or side, the headlight delivered by the oncoming vehicle will be more likely to be returned back to the driver sooner, giving them more time to react and potentially avoid a crash.” (end of 3M reprinted material)

In the early 2000s the Federal Government was formulating rules to enact to regulate the relatively new concept of Low Speed Vehicles (LSVs) that were starting to be driven on the roads. These were typically golf carts and ATVs; vehicles that could go faster than a buggy but not as fast as a regular car. There were concerns about how these vehicles could show up effectively on the roads and ‘hold their own’ among the faster-moving traffic and not be sitting ducks… that is, waiting to be hit like they were targets in a carnival midway’s shooting gallery. If this sounds like concerns about buggies too… IT IS !!

Not surprisingly, some of what was discussed was the inclusion of both the use of SMV emblems (triangles) and conspicuity striping as is used on trucks.

The thinking about protecting these small, slow vehicles even extended to considering the use of a brighter, more visible color on them… something that foresaw what later was incorporated into the Tri-Color TriangleTM.

Now, how this applies to buggies…

It is as important, or maybe even more so, to have modern materials edge striping on the front, rear and sides of your buggy as it is to have a modern materials triangle. The edge striping is what can show car and truck traffic by their headlights what exactly they are dealing with from a distance at night… even above and beyond flashing lights or triangles retro-reflective surfaces! Even ours! The edge striping conveys at a glance MASS and SIZE, requiring no visual “interpretation” of what they’re dealing with at a glance. Flashing lights can be mistaken for a broken-down vehicle on the SIDE of the road from either direction… not necessarily registering as something that’s IN the road like a buggy… and that needs to be actively avoided and slowed down for. The edge striping goes hand-in-hand with the buggy lights, removing any doubt or question about what is being seen, whether from front-on viewing in the opposite lane or when seen from behind (or the sides where there are no lights). Old-style Engineer Grade silver-white tape is actually less bright than a buggy’s license plate! (Indiana type). This was proven to me repeatedly when I passed a large number of  buggies on the highway. You can see this for yourself if you are riding in the front seat with a van driver at night and come upon someone’s Indiana buggy and pass them. The license plate shows up before the old-style edge striping!! That isn’t good. Modern Type 4 edge striping really does make all the difference in the world!!

I would be more than happy if a buggy were to only use this better edge striping… holding off on using a Tri-Color TriangleTM for the time being… knowing that the benefits of buggy safety at night would still be served! Getting a T-C T can wait…. The State of Ohio has recently proposed legislation to make it required to double the width of buggy edge striping to 2 inches wide instead of the present 1 inch. This is no doubt to compensate for the fact of old Engineer Grade tape being relatively dim. But the math is simple: twice the width of old dim tape is still less than half as bright as only 1 inch of modern tape (that is 4 times brighter inch-for-inch) A “license plate vs. old dim striping” test can convince you.

History of Retro-Reflective Tape and other articles from Steven Cole at “reflective tape .info and .com” (edited) and Why the move to Modern Avery Type 4 striping for the Spickard, MO, Amish group is a Really Big Deal

Reflectivity was not invented. It has always been present in nature. Light bouncing off of objects is why we are able to see those objects. Retro-Reflectivity (*which is the proper technical term for Directionally-Reflective… ‘reflective’ being a layman’s term that is usually substituted incorrectly) has also always been present in nature. A cat’s eye is an example of this phenomenon. There have been two breakthroughs in the technology of retro-reflectivity. The first is the perfectly spherical glass bead and the second is the man made prism. Potters began producing tiny glass beads or spheres in the early 1930’s. The beads that Potters created were very round or spherical which was important. Only a perfectly round and clear bead would send light back to where it came from. These very small and very round glass beads were used on cinema screens to make them brighter and also on road stripes to make them more retro-reflective. To this day glass beads made by Potters are still used on road stripes. At first, glass beads were applied to the surface of signs and left exposed. The retro-reflectivity achieved was low and in rain it was even lower. Also, over time, dirt would build up between the beads and further limit visibility. This experimentation was a start, but further improvements were needed.

In 1937, 3M began developing a film that utilized glass beads bonded to a flexible surface. This is the type of edge striping tape that the Spickard, MO, group had sent me in their initial letter asking if something better was available. We didn’t have the heart to tell them just how many generations out-of-date their material was and accounted for why it was near-invisible in the rain!

In 1939, 3M introduced what was known then and today as “Engineer Grade” retro-reflective sheeting. Engineer Grade is also known as an enclosed bead sheeting. This simply means that the beads are immersed in the top coat so that each bead is sealed and protected. There are pros and cons to this type of construction. On the plus side, you can cut the tape and make letters or shapes…. It is for this reason that Engineer Grade tape is so popular in the graphics industry…. On the negative side, this type of construction reduces the overall retro-reflectivity of the beads. Engineer Grade ‘reflects’ back at a rate of about 75-108 candelas for white… about the same as a license plate (staying nominally-visible only for up to around 100 to 150 feet, the length of  about 2 to 3 semi trailers).

Edge striping needs to be distinctly visible from farther away than just 100 to 150 feet ! This is why your buggy’s conventional 1939-era edge stripes are INADEQUATE and that you truly need a simple Visibility Upgrade to either our Type 4 Avery white (as used on the front and sides) or the Avery yellow-green, complementing the T-C T, as seen on the rear.

Competition Enters the Glass Bead Retro-Reflective Tape Market  In 1963 the Rowland brothers began developing micro-prismatic (or cubed cornered) retro-reflective sheeting. This product was patented in 1970. Prismatic sheeting ‘reflects’ light back to the source just like glass bead tape does. The only difference is that prismatic retro-reflective sheeting does this much more efficiently. Instead of light entering a glass sphere it enters a triangular prism. Micro prisms have straight sides that allow more light to enter and exit the prism. Prismatic tapes are about 80% efficient while glass bead tapes are about 30% efficient. The front of the prism allows light in and the back ‘reflects’ it and sends it back out directionally. Glass bead retro-reflective surfaces use glass spheres to collect light and bounce it back to the source. The rounded shape of the beads is what creates the retro-reflectivity. Prismatic surfaces do the same thing but with sharp angles like prisms. They work like the glass beads but are more efficient, thus creating a brighter return of light.

“Which retro-reflective tape is the brightest?” Brightness is not all that a user should look for in a retro-reflective film — it’s only one factor. Other factors to consider include ‘light dispersion,’ the angle at which it still remains effective. It is because of such other factors that so many different types are made. All tapes are seemingly relatively bright close up. It is as you get farther away that one begins to notice a difference. (Safety Psychographics has made it our business to study such factors, even recently evaluating a so-called ‘super-reflective’ ‘rescue’ tape)

From least bright to most bright are excerpted the following, including their rating in candelas (similar to candlepower ratings for lights).

Engineer Grade Type 1: White – 75-108 candelas; Non Metalized Micro-Prismatic Retro-Reflective Tape – Type 4 (as used on the edge striping here): White – 360-450 candelas… OVER 4 X BRIGHTER THAN YOUR BUGGY !!

Rear end collisions are what our product, the Tri-Color Triangle(TM), addresses. The reason for stressing this particular type of collision is that other types of collisions can be reduced through driver training. However, reducing rear end collisions is a different matter. Rear end collisions occur when a driver does not see a slower or stopped vehicle in front of them in time to stop. Increasing vehicle conspicuity or visibility is the key to reducing these types of accidents. Increased visibility equates to more reaction time which in turn leads to a substantial reduction in collisions. The use of bright, fluorescent, high visibility, retro-reflective tape either in a chevron pattern or in an alternating pattern** has been shown to reduce accidents by up to 41%.  The effectiveness of this method has been proven in the fire apparatus and emergency vehicle market. The Tri-Color Triangle(TM) incorporates all of these elements (**including the alternating).

Brightest & Best Color Retro-Reflective Tape for Reducing Rear End Collisions

When marking your buggy (or wagon or pony cart) with retro-reflective tape, it is important to select the right color combination. Color, contrast and brightness are all important and can make the difference between being seen and not seen by day or at night.  The color you select should contrast with the other colors. This makes it conspicuous… which is the goal.  The tape color should also be bright so it can be seen from as far away as possible. The tape types should be as bright as possible. Studies show that bright fluorescent yellow-green is the brightest and most conspicuous color. This is true by day, at dusk and at night. Fluorescent yellow-green is a very unique color and is not commonplace compared to other colors, as it is the result of 2 out of 3 the types of your color vision cones in the eyes being simultaneously and equally stimulated by it. Fluorescent Orange is also in this type of category.  Both of these colors draw attention because they are fluorescent and bright.  Of the two, fluorescent yellow-green is the brightest. Alternating these colors provides the highest contrast while using the most conspicuous colors. This makes one the most visible and safe by both day , dusk and night. The Tri-Color Triangle(TM) incorporates all of these elements, alternating between fluorescent orange, red, and fluorescent yellow-green.