Mandatory High-Viz: The Background

The MAG Office has received a number of queries relating to the possible mandatory use of high visibility clothing by riders. There appears to be some confusion about the nature and extent of the proposal.

First up, let’s get one thing straight: MAG Ireland is not against the use of high visibility clothing.

We say: “Let the rider decide”

MAG Ireland opposes only the mandatory use of high visibility clothing as an unjustified and questionable “solution” to the problem of drivers failing to properly look for vulnerable road users.

So, where did all this mandatory business come from?
Well, the original proposal for mandatory high visibility clothing was contained in the draft National Motorcycle Safety Action Plan published in April 2009 by the RSA. That proposal read as follows;

Action No. 30. Introduce regulations for the mandatory wearing of sleeved high visibility upper body clothing for rider and pillion passenger.

MAG Ireland made a formal submission to the RSA as part of the consultation process in which we explained our opposition to the compulsory aspect.

However, the RSA went ahead and implemented the proposal in the final version of the plan which it published in 2010. In this post consultation version of the plan, the RSA states it’s aim is firstly to increase voluntary use of high visibility clothing from it’s current level of 40% of riders to 75%. Here is the relevant quote from the current plan;

High visibility clothing

4.4.3 The recent surveys commissioned by the Road Safety Authority and conducted across the Irish Republic have reported high visibility clothing wearing rates of approximately 40% by motorcyclists. It is notable however that there are significant variations between the larger cities where wearing rates are higher and regional towns where rates are substantially lower. In addition the surveys have identified that, on average, almost 50% of high visibility clothing is obscured, for example by a “back-pack”.

4.4.4 The Motorcycle Safety Action Plan will seek to address the variation in wearing rates and improve overall rates, especially outside the larger cities and to reduce the incidence of obscured high visibility clothing. The Motorcycle Action Plan will increase wearing of high-visibility clothing by motorcyclists from 40% to 75%.

However, it’s clear that the RSA has no intention of stopping there, and that compulsory high visibility clothing will be introduced. Here’s what section 4.4.5 says;

4.4.5 The Motorcycle Safety Action proposes the introduction of regulations for the mandatory wearing of high visibility upper body clothing with full sleeves for ride [sic] and pillion passenger.

Just in case there is any doubt, in section 9 of the document (the “Action Plan” itself), actions number 8, 9, and 10 refer directly to the proposal to increase voluntary use of high visibility clothing as noted above. However, it is action number 23;

“Introduce regulations for the mandatory wearing of high visibility upper body clothing.”

which shows the true intention. The proposed completion date is 4th Qtr 2014.

It is clear therefore, that the RSA have already decided on a course of action for which they cite no scientific evidence.

In fact, there is no evidence cited at all beyond a footnote referring to the “ERSO website”. Even if the ERSO website contained such evidence it would be questionable whether this would apply in the Irish context given our population dispersal & travel patterns may be significantly different to those in which any foreign study may have been carried out.

The bottom line is this: Motorcyclists are there to be seen.

MAG Ireland believes the proposal for mandatory high visibility clothing has an inherent flaw. It shifts the blame away from drivers who fail to look properly, and places it on riders who are entitled to use the roads unencumbered by so-called safety measures which are quite simply unproven. If a driver doesn’t look properly, a driver won’t see and no amount of high visibility clothing or blame shifting can ever fix that.

MAG Ireland calls on the RSA to abandon this incendiary proposal immediately, and to focus on the real cause of the problem – drivers failing to look properly before pulling out.

Footnote: MAG Ireland notes that were high visibility clothing to be made mandatory, it would still be subject to VAT at the luxury rate of 21%.