Battenburg markings are a pattern of high-visibility markings used primarily on the sides of emergency service vehicles. The name comes from the similarity in appearance to the cross-section of a Battenberg cake.
Battenburg markings were originally developed in the mid-1990s in the UK by the Police Scientific Development Branch (PSDB) (now the Home Office Scientific Development Branch (HOSDB)) at the request of the national motorway policing sub-committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers. They were first developed for the United Kingdom police forces to use on traffic patrol cars, although other private organisations and civil emergency services have since started to use the pattern on their vehicles.
The brief was to create a livery for motorway and trunk road police vehicles which would maximise the visibility of the vehicles when stopped on scene, both in daylight, and under headlights from a minimum distance of 500 m, and which would distinctively mark it as a police car.
The key research objectives included:
- Enhance officer and public safety by reducing the likelihood of road accidents where conspicuity of the police vehicle is a factor
- Be recognisable as a police vehicle up to a distance of 500 metres in normal daylight
- Assist in high visibility policing so as to reassure the public and enhance the potential deterrent benefits of proactive traffic patrol activity
The research showed the human eye is most sensitive to blue/green shades at night and yellow/green in daylight. The battenburg design typically comprises two or more rows of alternating retroreflective squares or blocks, usually starting with yellow at the top, then the alternating colour, along the sides of a vehicle. The battenburg livery is not used on the rear of vehicles, with the majority of users using upward facing chevrons in yellow and red to the rear, in line with the markings used by other road users. While most cars use only two rows in the design, larger vehicles can be marked with more rows.
During the development of battenburg markings, one of the key functions was to clearly identify a vehicle as being linked to the police. In addition to the advantages in effectiveness tests, the pattern was also reminiscent of the Sillitoe Tartan pattern of black-and-white or blue-and-white chequered markings, first introduced by City of Glasgow Police in the 1930s, and subsequently adopted as a symbol of police services as far away as Chicago and Australia.
Subsequent to the launch of the markings of the vehicles, the police introduced retro-reflective Sillitoe tartan markings to their uniforms, usually in blue and white.
In the United Kingdom, the majority of the emergency services have adopted the battenburg style of markings, with nearly half of all police forces adopting the markings within three years of its introduction, and over three quarters using it by 2003.
In 2004, following the widespread adoption and recognition of the battenburg markings on police vehicles, the Home Office subsequently recommended that all police vehicles, not just those on traffic duty, be marked up with a "half-battenburg" livery which formalised a position which had already been undertaken by a number of forces.
In the United Kingdom, the emergency services have chosen or been given certain colours which identify them, with the police continuing to use the blue, whereas UK ambulances tend to use green and the fire service use red.
The use of these colours in retro-reflective material is controlled by the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations 1989, with vehicles only legally allowed the use of yellow retro-reflective material, although the emergency services operate under temporary special orders under section 44 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 to use their own colours, with moves currently underway to formalise this in legislation and extend the use of other colours to civilian operators. However, a number of civilian organisations have adopted the pattern, which is not legally protected, and a number of these also use other retro-reflective colours.
An alternative to the use of retro-reflective materials is the use of fluorescent markings, or other non-reflective markings, which at least in the United Kingdom can be used by any vehicle, regardless of ownership or purpose.
|Common battenburg markings
used in the United Kingdom
|Police||Yellow / Blue|
|Ambulance and doctors||Yellow / Green|
|Fire and Rescue||Yellow / Red|
|National Blood Service||Yellow / Orange|
|Highways Agency and VOSA||Yellow / Black|
|Rail response||Blue / Orange|
|Mountain rescue||White / Orange|
|HM Coastguard||Yellow / Navy Blue|
In Ireland, a similar system to the UK is used with some variations.
|Common battenburg markings
used in Ireland
|Garda Síochána||Yellow / Blue|
|HSE National Ambulance Service||Yellow / Green|
|Fire Brigade||Yellow / Red|
|Civil Defence||Blue / Orange|
The New Zealand Police currently use yellow/blue Battenburg markings, as well as cars in standard factory colours. Prior to October 2008, orange and blue were for general duties vehicles while yellow and blue was reserved for highway patrol units. The orange and blue colour scheme will be phased out by 2014, and all vehicles will use the yellow and blue colour scheme.
Originally Swedish Police vehicles were painted with black roofs and doors or black roofs, bonnet and boot. This was a necessity due to the heavy snows Sweden experiences. During the 1980s the cars became white with the word "Polis" written on the side in a semi-futuristic typeface. Later the livery became simply blue and white, then in 2005 was changed to a light blue and fluorescent yellow Battenburg livery. Most Swedish police cars are either Volvos or Saabs, with the same livery all over Sweden. A recent Swedish trend is to also use Battenburg markings on road maintenance vehicles. These are then marked with orange/blue, as in the UK rail response type shown above. A study by the Swedish Road Administration show a significant traffic calming effect when using orange/blue Battenburg marking to improve the visibility of road maintenance vehicles.
The first Swiss ambulance service with battenburg markings is the Emergency medical services in Zofingen. Since 2008 they have battenburg markings on a Volkswagen Crafter and a Mercedes Sprinter. They use white/red coloured markings on their ALS units. Another service with a kind of battenburg markings is the Swiss Border Patrol. They use lemon on blue markings.
- Harrison, Paul (2004). High-Conspicuity Livery for Police Vehicles. Home Office.
- "Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989: Schedule 17".
- Burrows, Adrian (2008-03-07). Impact Assessment of the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations covering reflective markings on emergency vehicles. Department for Transport.[dead link]
- Binning, Elizabeth (11 November 2008). "Arresting image update to save police force $800,000". New Zealand Herald.
- "Improved visibility of road maintenance vehicles using Battenburg markings (report in Swedish)".
Media related to Battenburg markings at Wikimedia Commons