Motorcycle Blog

As a starting point, I do not wear a flourescent jacket or a white helmet unless I am working by the side of the road at a scene visit – so I can compare how drivers react to my usual riding gear of black Alpinestars textiles or leather, Rukka textiles or the Black Aerostich and compare this directly to the same rider and same bike in white lid and dayglow. So here is my considered opinion.

If a driver cannot see a red Multistrada with auxillary lights with a six foot tall man perched on top of it then a full set of fairy light and a flashing beacon on my head is going to make no difference. However when I ride dressed like a pretend policeman other drivers seem more aware of my presence because their driving styles change. I think this is because they are unsure as to whether or not I am a Police motorcyclist who can do terrible things to their license.

The next question is “Is this an advantage?” and there I think it is a mixed blessing. Cars get out of the way because they don’t want what they perceive as a bike cop behind them but their driving becomes a bit unpredictable as they attempt to drive “by the book” and their forward progress becomes much slower. An unpredictable car is a harder prospect to pass than a driver who is driving at normal speeds and predictably.

So I have come to a balanced decision. Most of the time I think high visibility stuff is not much of an aid to safer motorcycling (except for learner bikes which travel slower than ordinary traffic flow) so I don’t wear it. It does have an effect, but I don’t think the overall effect makes riding any safer. it is a matter of personal choice (at least so long as the EU keep their beaks out of it – I’d have thought they had bigger issues to deal with). The Highway Code recommends it and I have seen a couple of attempts made in Court to shift some blame onto a motorcyclist who is not wearing high visibility gear but these have got precisely nowhere as it cannot stand this simple cross examination –

Q “So you did not see the motorcycle?”
A “No”

Q “The big motorcycle with a rider on it which had its lights on?”
A “No”

Q “But you say you would have seen it had the riders helmet or jacket had been a different colour”
A ” I don’t know”

Q “But the bike was not invisible, was it?”
A “No”

Q “And it was there, wasn’t it”
A “Yes”

Q “So the riders clothing made no difference?”
A “No”

In fairness by this point the Judge has usually told me to move on because he has already dismissed the argument that the rider is to blame for not wearing high visibility clothing. As a general rule not following the Highway Code is only a factor in blame. It does not end the argument, and should only be regarded as a starting point.

Andrew Dalton is a highly experienced trial lawyer who delights in taking on difficult and demanding motorcycle cases. He has a tough and relentless litigation style and is utterly focussed on getting the best possible outcomes for his clients.

20 Comments
  • Ken Lines

    October 29, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Whilst in total agreement with your comments, Andrew, your argument is too logical for the ‘Nanny State’ activists, here and in Brussels, who are convinced that they, and only they, should be the arbiters on all aspects of human safety. They suffer from a mental failing (perpetual fear of everything?)for which, I fear, there is no cure. Thanks to their misguided logic we now have DRLs on cars, removing at a stroke one of the best safety devices that ‘bikes, with headlights on, ever had. Now a ‘bike’s headlamp is just lost in a sea of blazing car headlamps, many on full beam, (up here in Lincolnshire there are many who think they should also have fog lights and high intensity rear lights on as well) in broad daylight. In my Toyota I have actually been told by another driver ‘You haven’t got your lights on, mate.’ this under conditions of perfect daytime visibility.

    To mind mind DRLs, except for ‘bikes, are a nonsense, if one cannot see a car, under reasonably clear conditions, no less than half a mile away, then one should not be driving. Lights for ‘4+ wheeled’ vehicles should be reserved for failing light/visibility conditions, where common sense should dictate the need outside the hours of sunset to sunrise.

    Hi-Vis clothing should be a matter of choice, I only wear a Hi-Vis jacket if leading a group on a club ride-out and it is for ‘Leader’ identification not for safety.

    Ken Lines.

  • Andrew

    October 31, 2011 at 9:30 am

    I think if daylight driving lights come in for cars, there will be only two effects. The first will be a lot of drivers refusing to put on their lights (flat batteries, increased fuel consumption) and a lot more riders being T boned by car drivers as they are missed in a plethora of lights. Daylight driving lights are only used in Nordic Countries in Europe as their winter light is a strange grey light but there are no bikes out in the winter anyway, so there is no safety issue. If this goes europe wide Greek driver’s in blinding sunlight will need to put their lights on. The science supports riders having lights on but drivers not in daylight. Mind you, who are we to let logic and our safety stand in the way of some half baked scheme dreamt up by a Euro-klutz?

  • Rob

    November 4, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    I agree hi viz clothing is of no benefit to rider. I wear a dayglo orange crash helmet, my lights are on permenantly and still cars have pulled out in front of me. I think that instead of enforcing the wearing of hi-viz clothing it would be time and money better spent in the education and enforcement of drivers who as a result of being encased in metal become less concerned with the other road users – motorcyclists and regular push bikes alike. I also drive a car and have had the situation myself with a bike where i looked and it was clear as i looked back before pulling out the bike has come from no-where and has clearly been travelling faster than the posted speed limit – on one occassion the rider was on one wheel. Accidents are` going to happen however bikers and car drivers alike need to respect each other more and appreciate that it’s safer for everyone involved to stop rushing around and spend a few extra minutes at the junction etc to save a life

  • Philip Jones

    November 4, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    As their as never been a risk assement on high viz & the rules from health & safety say you should have one on all safety items before use,where do we go from here as they dont help much anyway as I recently got knocked off in broad daylight wearing a full high viz jacket,also have a high viz day time riding light fitted & to top it all the bike is an (RED)VFR800FW so not invisable but does not resemble a POLICE bike which to most car drivers are the only ones visable to them.SO THEIR DRIVING NEEDS IMPROVEMENT OR VISIT SPECSAVERS.Phil

  • Pete Tussler

    November 4, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    I ride daily and wear only a piped refective black jacket and white helmet and do so as it leaves me able to work w/o feeling like beacon as I move from office to office. I feel that if we all start wearing Hi vis it will be the next thing that is forced on us by Govt. who would rather legislate than punish the errant driver who can’t be bothered the look

    I have worn Hi vis in the past and have only been hit when wearing hi vis. I have made a decision to ride in ultra defensived mode rather than rely on an resident of the shallow end of the gene pool putting his glasses on that day

  • Bill

    November 4, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    i do not agree that we should be forced to wear a specific uniform to be seen. Its our choice if we wish to wear a high viz or dress in black!

  • Gabriel uttley

    November 4, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    I am currently wearing a huge, fluorescent orange set of bib and brace, and they still pull out on me….three this week!!! How can they see you if they do not look. They need educating by making them all drive a lorry and ride a motorcycle before they are given their car licence.

  • Dr Nicholas Stone PhD

    November 4, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    I agree with Andrew if everyone had daytime lights on it would confuse the more than dim only car drivers ! I think All car drivers no matter what age should pass a compulsery sight for driving test, as I’ve been hit by a woman that could barely see her hand in front of her face
    I personally think that all drivers ought to do 12 months on a bike just to improve there road use ability and to be made more aware of what its like for bikers ! As when your one of them it makes you more empathic to our needs !

  • steve

    November 4, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    hi vis should be left optional

  • Paul Smart

    November 4, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    I’ve ridden with my headlight on for years, and even then I managed to get T-boned by a car pulling out of a side road while riding a Yamaha XS850!
    I do not wear hi-vis clothing because, as had been said previously, if they can’t see a bloody big bike with a headlight on, any bright clothing will not make a ha’perth of difference. I think if the EU “beak” does get stuck in then every biker wearing hi-vis gear will just become the norm and drivers will still not see us simply due to complacency again!

  • Chris

    November 4, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    I do a fair amount of motorway riding and driving and sometimes choose to wear hi-viz clothing. I think the effects can be both positive and negative in different circumstances. I’ve ridden for 25 plus years mostly without such clothing and have to say that I’m sure that not wearing hi-viz has meant drivers making potentially dangerous manoeuvres that perhaps had I been wearing hi-viz, they would have seen me and avoided. However, a healthy degree of observation and paranoia has saved me thus far. Once I started wearing hi-viz, I think a certain percentage of car-drivers associate this clothing with slower moving motorcyclists and noticed a few , seemingly ‘extra’ incidents of drivers under-estimating my speed as I approached from the rear. Also on occasion, a car driver on spotting a motorcyclist may make sudden unexpected moves, often well intentioned but not necessarily helpful, so not being seen can be advantageous (bearing in mind that a degree of defensive riding and assuming you’ve not been seen is an essential survival technique for motorcyclists). I’d also agree with the point about occasion erratic driver behaviour when you resemble a police man. On the flip side, when filtering through lines of slow moving cars, prone to change lanes suddenly to gain advantage in the near gridlock of rush hour motorway traffic that wearing hi-viz will definitely improve your chances of being seen in a drivers rushed and cursory glance in their mirrors before changing lanes, and as a driver too, I will admit in these circumstances a flash of high viz in my mirrors has alerted me to a filtering bike. I don’t think there is a definitive answer and it probably depends on your riding style and route choice (high viz jackets can make a rider less visible against a background of yellowing autumn leaves in the sun). Certainly making hi-viz compulsory could also lead to a false sense of security for a certain mindset of rider.

  • Dean Snelling

    November 5, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Every accident I have had involving a car taking me out, ive been wearing a full hi-viz jacket, either full yellow, or full orange. It still didn’t stop them pulling out on me or changing lanes without seeing me. Ive now gone to wearing all black cause if they cant see the lights on a r1200rt, they aren’t going to see me

  • KK

    November 6, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Personally I do believe its an infringement of my personal rights and my freedom of choice. So if I put on a pair of sandals, a pair of boxer shorts, a hi-zis vest and an open face helmet, ALL LEGAL would this be ok and make me safe, I think not. Most riders are quite sensible in there approach to clothing and self preservation so leave things alone. Dont fix what isnt broke.
    As for day driving/riding lights they are dangerous, it has been proven that it is harder to judge the oncoming speed of a car or bike with there lights on, this would obviously lead to and cause confused, therefore causing more accidents, so leave it alone, dont fix what isnt broke.
    Im sick to death of listening to and reading about idiotic rules and ideas that have been thought up by some little office bound jerk that doesnt have a clue about what going on in the real world, get a grip and shut up, do us all a favour

  • Rob

    November 6, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    I have had experience on both sides of the fence as a driver and motorcycle rider. With the days now getting darker earlier i would recommend that riders wear some sort of visibility wear, even if it is just a white or light coloured helmet. A rider wearing black on a black motorcycle at night in the rain is probably taking their life in their own hands. I would say that if wearing hi vis reduces the chance of being hit then I would wear hi vis.

  • Chris

    November 7, 2011 at 9:39 am

    I drive, ride and cycle, personally if it means more person sees me its a good thing and i’ve seen examples of it working for me and others.

    I dont wear it all the time usually winter, rain and fog, but oddly I have one under my seat just incase…

    There are many comments about drivers pulling out and not seeing the biker. But if we see them do we always make the right choices to ensure they see us or if the dont have a chance to avoid an ‘accident’

  • Andrew

    November 7, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Thank you all for your responses. I have improved my visibility to the minority of drivers who cannot register a motorcycle by having addidtional lights fitted which, from a purely personal view, seem to work better than a dayglow. I admit that when I am by the side of the road measuring up sight lines – which is inevitably at an accident scene I do go for the full Police look of dayglow and white helmet because it slows cars down when I am especially vulnerable – but that works when I anm on foot usually with a camera and tripod and there will often be marker cones on the road so drivers know something is going on. On the road, when noticed, I am clearly suspected of being a Police Rider (even on a red Ducati) and the driving of other drivers becomes a bit weird.

    I agree with all the sentiments expressed here – like let us be grown ups and decide for ourselves what we think is suitable to protect our own bodies and lives. Well intentioned bureaucrats with no real life experience make for very bad outcomes. I have a sort of compromise – I wear an Urban Glow Vest which has reflectives in poor conditions, or if I am doing something with the rider’s Branch of the RBL as it has the Branch Crest. On my pedal cycle where I can be hit from behind I am properly dayglowed up, but car drivers are incredibly aggressive to pedal cyclists.

    I would personally recommend a bit of reflective beacuse a client of mine was only found by Police in undergrowth after he was knocked off and rendered unconscious in hours of darkness because the Police picked up reflections from the piping in his waterproofs.

    There is some weak causal link evidence of drivers seeing motorcyclists better if they are in contrast or high visibility gear BUT the key point is that their estimate of the speed and distance of the mmotorcyclist does not improve one jot. So the driver, if a dipstick, will still pull out. The only thing I would remind ourselves about is most car drivers are perfectly decent drivers pretty well most of the time. My big gripe is that a minority just cannot seem to register motorbikes actually exist, so just move into our paths like we are not there.

  • p mooney

    November 8, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    yes you can put on a load of brit stuff on to get seen.you can also stay at home and hide under the
    sters in a cardboard box if you doute youer ability.
    if you havent got the balls to ride stay at home.

  • mike

    November 11, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    I think that Chris has hit the nail on the head.
    I too am both car driver and motorcyclist and recently took to wearing a hi-viz vest. As a car driver I look out for my brethren bikers and they are more easily spotted from front or rear especially in heavy traffic. The reaction of some drivers indeed can be erratic when they spot a biker with hi-viz since they often are not sure what the apparel represents (traffic cop maybe?).
    I’m not for compulsion, but if it improves my chances by even just a small amount then I personally think the modest outlay is worth it …just don’t depend on it but think on it as just another tool in the box.

  • Reg

    November 13, 2011 at 9:46 am

    I am recovering from a badly shattered tibia, I was riding a large bike, Bandtit 1250, wearing a bright yellow jacket, white crash helmet and headlight on.
    The guy that hit me “didn’t see me”! and he has admitted the fact.
    It proves to me the what ever we wear it makes no difference what so ever if a driver is not paying full attention all of the time.
    I do not believe in compulsion, but I do believe we should do as much as possible to be seen.
    Surely it’s common sense.

  • Andrew

    November 29, 2011 at 9:43 am

    It seems self evident that a rider is better off in hi viz gear, until you back to back compare real road riding. I notice a deterioration in bad drivers standards as they get a bit panicky that the rider is plod. Ordinarily competent drivers are not a problem, so it is the bad drivers we need protection from. The fundamental problem is the lazy or incopetent driver’s brain saying “small object, far away so pull out” as opposed to “small object, not a car, so guage distance and leave a margin for error” which hi viz just does not address.

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