High Viz Video – a driver’s eye view

The RSA’s National Motorcycle Safety Action Plan (2010-2014) seeks to introduce mandatory Hi-Viz clothing for riders and pillion passengers. This proposal is prefaced by the following paragraphs [emphasis by MAG Ireland]:

Motorcyclists may be more difficult to see because of their relatively small frontal area (compared to cars and other vehicles), which could reduce safety for these vulnerable road users.  Indeed, 68% of collisions in Ireland in the last three years occurred during daylight hours when visibility was good.

Two means by which the conspicuity of motorcyclist may be improved include the wearing of high visibility clothing, and the use of daytime running lights by motorcyclists

approaching bikeFor a plan seeking to introduce legislation, there are a lot of “maybe”s in the rationale. Indeed  the fact that 68% of collisions in Ireland in the preceding three years occurred in conditions of good visibility does little to support the argument for Hi-Viz.

Some studies (See footnote) have shown that high visibility clothing makes little or no difference to the likelihood of motorcycle riders being seen by drivers.

MAG Ireland believes that riders should retain the right to choose, as at present, whether or not to wear high visibility clothing. The RSA propose to take that right away from us despite the absence of any substantive evidence to back up the claim that mandatory high visibility clothing would significantly improve motorcycle safety. [See the MAG Ireland “Hi Viz, Get The Facts” document]

As riders we know that a high visibility vest or jacket is largely invisible from the front in any case as all but a tiny number of bikers ride with their headlamps on dipped beam at all times. Indeed all new motorcycles sold here since 2004 have headlights that come on with the ignition. The RSA are denying riders the full benefit of this conspicuity aid by continuing to insist that all road users drive with their lights on, thereby making motorcycles less conspicuous.

The MAIDS Report noted that 9 out of 10 of motorcycle collisions occurred from near straight-ahead from the motorcyclist’s perspective.

MAIDS Report, Fig 5.6

Almost all colisions are to the front


Knowing that the threat is mostly from the front, one Irish Motorcyclist has gone further than most to vividly demonstrate why the RSA’s proposal may not have the projected benefits.

We think the video speaks for itself, so we’ll let it do just that. Reproduced here with the kind permission of the owner;

In Summary

The video clearly demonstrates that a motorcycle with it’s headlight on is much more visible than a rider with a hi-viz, the headlight being visible from a much greater distance.  Even when the rider is obscured by trees or lamp posts (as they are in the video) the light washes around the object to some extent.

Hi-viz cannot have this effect since it relies on light bouncing off the jacket and needs line of sight. In fact, the video demonstrates that the lamp post & trees pose significant conspicuity risks for the rider that can never be countered by using high-viz.

Meanwhile, the RSA continues to insist that drivers use dipped headlights in daylight hours which negates the advantage conferred on the biker by using his headlight, and then seeks to compensate for this faulty thinking by proposing that bikers be mandated to use high viz jackets!!

Then to rub salt into the wounds, the RSA say that “surveys have identified that, on average, almost 50% of high visibility clothing is obscured, for example by a back-pack.” Yet the MAIDS study shows that almost 90% of collisions occur from the front.

Ignoring this evidence, the RSA proposes in section 4.4.4 of the The Motorcycle Safety Action Plan that they “will seek … to reduce the incidence of obscured high visibility clothing.”

We as riders deserve better than this flawed thinking. We are there to be seen, and the mandatory high viz proposal benefits nobody. MAG Ireland’s position is simple. We are not against high visibility garments. We say simply, “Let the Rider Decide”.


Clake, Ward, Bartle and Truman – “The role of motorcyclist and other driver behaviour in two types of serious accident in the UK” Study showed 30% of motorcyclists involved in serious accidents were veritably using hi-viz and/or headlights, in good visibility. Researchers commented that this was likely an underestimation of the real number.

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