Does hi-viz motorcycle gear work?

Does hi-viz motorcycle gear work?

Intuitively one would think fluorescent clothing would make a rider more visible, but the jury is out on this point.

And the science is ambivalent: one European survey found hi-viz motorcycle clothing made a modest difference to driver perception of motorcyclists, but others have found no significant statistical link between the use of high visibility motorbike gear and actually being seen.

Rule 83 of The Highway Code tells us that we, ‘could wear a light or brightly coloured helmet and fluorescent clothing or strips’ – that is it. There is no compulsion or even advice to wear day-glow motorcycle kit, it is simply presented as a possible option for us to consider. The Highway Code, drafted as it is by thoughtful civil servants reflects the state of scientific knowledge on fluorescent clothing.

Personally, I wear high visibility clothing on a bicycle because I am constantly being overtaken and my broad back presents a lot of visibility, whereas my upper body, behind a screen and the front aspect of a motorcycle is relatively obscured.

The reasons are complex and a lot is determined by how the human brain and human eye work together – MRI brain scanning has revealed that much of what the eye sees the brain does not register. If something is not of interest to the brain, it ignores what is coming into it from the ocular nerve. So, what am I, as a lawyer on about?

It is very occasionally run as an argument that a motorcyclist has contributed to his or her own misfortune by failing to wear fluorescent hi-viz motorbike clothing, contrary to Rule 83. In fairness, this line of argument is rarely run by grown-ups because you ‘could’ wear dayglow, you could also choose not to get out of bed or you could choose to take the bus. This argument is occasionally run by insurance clerks with delusions of expertise, and horrifyingly sometimes accepted by paralegals masquerading as proper lawyers.

So if you want to wear fluorescent motorcycle kit such as a hi-viz motorcycle jacket by all means do so. It cannot do any harm, but do not feel compelled. For what it is worth, with my particular knowledge I have opted for a light, multi-coloured motorcycle helmet, a motorcycle jacket with contrasting arms and body, and auxiliary motorbike riding lights.

These practices have some scientific evidence of making me a bit more visible, but as a six foot tall man on a 1290cc Orange and White KTM Super Adventure even if I am in matt black if you have not seen me you have not looked, and if you have not looked I could be lit up with a disco ball and you still wouldn’t see me.

The cause of collisions is not motorcyclists being invisible, it is car drivers either not looking at all, taking a ‘micro-glance’ and failing to see the motorcyclist, or simply not processing that a motorcyclist is approaching them. Day glow does not really address these issues.

Andrew Dalton

Bike Magazine – November 2018

Disclaimer: The legal advice and statements contained within this/these articles is correct at the time of printing. If you are seeking legal advice after a motorbike accident please contact us to speak directly with one of our lawyers.

Posted by Andrew Dalton. Last modified: September 24, 2018 at 4:01 pm

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 focused on getting the best possible outcomes for his clients.

Comments

  1. martin bonifaceMarch 4, 2019

    I was in interested to see this as this is a topic we grapple with in my local IAM Road Smart motorcycle group. One school of thought is that pink hi-viz works well and is better than yellow. As you say, the real issue is other road users not looking properly

  2. andrew DaltonMarch 4, 2019

    Funnily enough Martin, one of my former colleagues, a petite female rider on an SV650 had a pink Urban Rider vest and she perceived as making a real difference. I quote her directly when she described herself as looking like a “girly” biker – she had regular kit on, mostly Held as I recall but a helmet with a bit of pink and the flashes of pink on her Urban Rider jacket. So maybe the cognitive dissonance of a female motorcyclist – because most car drivers presume riders will be male – it comes as a shock to some that women ride too, draws the eye. Hardly scientific but it does deal with the ubiquity point of high visibility yellow. For me the real trick is “reverse camouflage” – so do the exact opposite of what a sniper or an infantryman would do. So move across your lane to create lateral movement, use lights and do not be slow to hit the horn button if your spidey senses have you worried about a driver doing something which will end up with you in an ambulance.

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