Technical Reports

Evaluation of Retroreflective Markings to Increase Rail Car Conspicuity - Safety of Highway-Railroad Grade Crossings

  • 01
  • Oct
  • 1998
AUTHOR: Robert E. Ford, Stephen H. Richards, John C. Hungerford
SUBJECT: Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Warning Systems, Highway-Rail Grade Crossings, Human Factors
KEYWORDS: Conspicuity, Grade Crossings, Normal Group Technique, Rail Cars, Reflectorization
ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was to develop guidelines and recommendations for the design of retroreflective marking systems to enhance the conspicuity of rail cars at night. Three methods were used to generate and evaluate the marking systems for a standard hopper car. First, a group of human factors and transportation engineers used the Nominal Group Technique to generate candidate retroreflective marking systems. Secondly, two panels, one comprised of individuals with expertise in the area of conspicuity markings and one without this expertise, made subjective judgements as to the effectiveness of the marking systems. Finally, a computer controlled real-time experiment was conducted to establish the relative performance of the systems based on detection and recognition times. The evaluations indicated that any of the retroreflective systems tested improved rail car conspicuity when compared to a nonreflective marking. The data suggest that bright colors distributed to give an indication of the size or shape of the rail car were most effective, and distributions that concentrated the markings along the lower side of the car were less effective, regardless of the color pattern. For detection the fluorescent yellow was the most effective color pattern regardless of the distribution pattern. However, for recognition, fluorescent yellow or red, i.e., single color patterns, were more effective than a color pattern made up of red and white. Additional studies should be performed to determine the dynamic effectiveness of different color and distribution patterns when fitted to different types of rail cars.