Should riders wear dayglow jackets and white helmets?

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.

Posted by Andrew Prendergast. Posted on: October 28, 2011 at 12:00 am

Andrew has been riding motorcycles since he was 10 years old and currently rides a GSX1400 as his daily commuter whether it is sunny or snowing. In addition, he is currently restoring an old Honda CB750 K1. Andrew practices across all areas of motorcycle law, with his practice involving both civil claims and motoring defence work.