Road Safety News

Hi-vis vests handed out to protect pedestrians and cyclists

Tuesday 29th September 2015

Garda cars in Co Mayo in Ireland are to carry a stock of high-visibility vests to be given out to poorly-lit pedestrians and cyclists. The vests have been provided by the Road Safety Authority in Ireland.

Mayo County Council is urging pedestrians and cyclists to make themselves more visible during the dark winter nights, asking them to wear fluorescent or bright clothing in the daytime and reflective material at night.
At the same time, motorists are being urged to use their headlights so that not only can they see other road users but they, themselves, can be seen.
Mayo council’s road safety team claims that without reflective clothing or accessories a pedestrian or cyclist is only visible, in low beam headlights, at a distance of up to 30 metres. By wearing reflective items they become visible at 150 metres, giving drivers five times the distance to avoid them.
Noel Gibbons, road safety officer, Mayo County Council, said: “It is crucial when using the road at night-time that you are seen. As always, we urge people to wear high-visibility vests, reflective bands and to carry a torch.
“Now Garda cars will be carrying high-visibility vests that officers can give out to people they encounter on the road who are not properly lit up.”
Superintendent Joe McKeanna, from Castlebar Garda Station, said: “Already in 2015, 22 pedestrians and six pedal cyclists have been killed on roads around Ireland. We are delighted Gardai are handing out the high-visibility vests because it helps hammer home our ‘Be Safe, Be Seen’ message.”


Comment on this story
Report a reader comment

What's your view - comment on this story:

I confirm that I have read and accept the moderation policy and house rules relating to comments posted on this website.
Your comment:
Your name and location:
Your email:


I don't think it's about any individual being less safe from wearing hi-viz or indeed that they are less vulnerable because they are wearing hi-viz. The problem is the creeping and cumulative condemnation of people walking in the streets in "normal" clothes. We already have this with egg boxes on heads where after a collision involving someone on a cycle the usual question is "were they wearing a helmet".

It would be more credible if the road safety and motoring lobby were to call for the end to dark cars. Or that insurance premiums were loaded based on the visibility of a car. Can you imagine the uproar if such schemes were to be suggested (watch this space). And how about drivers, should they wear hi-viz when they walk to or get out of their vehicles?

These are all big-picture questions which need to be considered. The basic presumption that "you will always be seen easier in hi-viz" is not a rational and objective basis for setting out how we share the public places between buildings equitably and safely.

For all the comments about the danger of cycling on this website we should consider that in the safest countries in the world for cycling then you would ridiculed if suggesting that anything other than normal clothes were required for the normal activity.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

I would suggest Tim that maybe the reason for the lack of driver demographics are that they were all unremarkable in every way, just normal people going about their normal business. It also throws up an interesting problem in that thanks to the cloak of secrecy surrounding accident reports we only get to see some of the data not all of it.

If we had an accident and incident reporting system such as they have in every other safety-critical industry then all of us including Rod would be able to access the data we need.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

Agree (1) | Disagree (2)

If we are taking Dr Hardy's report as a proxy for casualties in a mixed urban/rural area, in fairness to Rod, it does seem a bit one-sided that there is not more analysis of the driver demographics involved. This notwithstanding, the report makes interesting reading. It identifies that three of the deceased were actually lying, one sitting, and two standing (stationary, presumably) in the carriageway at the time of impact. That one was killed when a trailer carrying livestock was being reversed into a field. That a teenager walked into the path of a bus obscured by their own umbrella. Sun glare. Headlamp glare. Intoxicated driver hit-and-run. Walking onto pedestrian crossings when the signal for traffic is green. Infants not properly supervised.

There is no obvious single solution to this tally of grief. From what I can judge, where drivers were speeding in an urban area the extent of their speeding was such that reducing the speed limit would not have influenced their behaviour. It's worth noting by contrast that in a rural area with a limit of 60 (or is it 50 in ROI?) you don't have to exceed the limit to present a serious threat to any pedestrian in the road ahead, particularly if the road is bendy, unlit and bounded by hedges.

While I think it's optimistic to believe people will routinely wear hi-vis, I can't see anyone being less safe for doing so; and I don't find it credible that having done so a pedestrian or cyclist might think themself invulnerable. So I see it as one of a package of valid measures needed to address the kind of incidents this report identifies.
Tim Philpot, Wolverhampton

Agree (6) | Disagree (0)

By handing out hi-vis clothing to children, one is sowing a road safety seed. I agree that many pedestrians who are killed and seriously injured on our roads are drunk, but by working with children we are attempting to create adults who may think twice about the wisdom of being drunk near the roads when they are older. Changing habits when they are established is a tough task, so for me this is an action that may well prove beneficial.
David, Suffolk

Agree (4) | Disagree (0)


Yes, I did refer to it as "victim blaming".

I note that in Dr Hardy's report there is a great analysis of the age of pedestrians, the sex of pedestrians, orientation of pedestrians, colour of clothing of pedestrians, intoxication of pedestrians. In addition there is data on the vehicles involved and the collision scheme and environment.

Yet there seems to be no data on the age of driver, eyesight of driver, health of driver, colour of vehicle being driven by driver, sex of driver.

I also note that all the pedestrians died. Hence were unable to give their undoubtedly useful analysis of what happened.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (8) | Disagree (1)

The report referred to by Duncan, indicated that the investigators 'calculated' the vehicles' speeds by seeing how far the body was thrown by the vehicle! No mention of the all-important approach speed - probably because it's practically impossible to accurately determine anyway.

I find it inconceivable - and I hope I am not the only reader to think so - that a motorist couldn't avoid a pedestrian in the road and the only reason they couldn't is because they were going too fast to see them in time and then too fast to stop.

If you're driving on unlit country roads at night, it's best to expect drunk pedestrians in dark clothing - that way you won't be surprised. Hi-vis/reflective clothing makes them easier to spot, but that doesn't excuse the careless speeding driver.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (6) | Disagree (4)

I think the point that can be drawn from the data David is just how many 'victims' were the worse for drink, how many of them were old and how many of the 'perpetrators' were driving within the speed limit! With The average Blood Alcohol Content of those that had been drinking at 232 mg per 100 ml that's almost three times the limit for driving.

It certainly looks like if you are old, had a few beers and wearing dark clothing, you're living on borrowed time irrespective of how compliant the motorists are.

Rod calls this victim blaming, but in a fault and blame culture what other conclusion can you draw?
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

Lovely data Duncan, but what was the point you wished to make?
David, Suffolk

Agree (2) | Disagree (0)

For the avoidance of doubt, Dr Elaine Hardy produced an excellent report on pedestrian fatalities using Coronor's reports as her data source. Although it was a study done in Northern Ireland, it would be safe to assume that the findings would be similar in other parts of the country.

The findings of these reports are supported by n.37 Coroners’ Verdicts.

In n.30 (55%) of cases the pedestrians wore dark clothing.

The majority of collisions occurred in darkness n.35 (64%), while the remaining n.20 (36%) collisions occurred during daylight.

In n.50 (91%) of the incidents, the vehicle was not driven at excessive speed (over the speed limit).

Children aged between one to 16 years represented the smallest group (12.7%); the group representing adults (including one 17 year old) total n.31/55 (56.4%) of the fatalities.

There were n.17/55 (31%) elderly pedestrians (aged over 70 years) involved in collisions with vehicles. In n.5 cases, the elderly pedestrians (n.2 females and n.3 males) crossed the road in front of a lorry.

There were n.17/55 pedestrians (31%) who were found to have alcohol in their blood at the time of the collision. All n.17 cases occurred during the hours of darkness. The average Blood Alcohol Content was 232 mg per 100 ml.

Read the full report at
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

I am now getting a bit fed up, as I am sure many others are, of being misrepresented in what I have stated previously. I am not against Hi Vis and have also said in a previous thread that in daylight conditions hi vis is of value and therefore I do not disagree with anyone on that point. What I have said is that it needs a good light source and not one found in the depths of winter when these kids will be going to and from school in darkness. That is unless the vehicle making the day glo or illuminating material work is unfortunately heading straight for the child wearing it. Under such poor lighting conditions why gamble that it may or not be seen and give them a torch instead, something that would be visible.

If anyone else doesn't agree then I suggest you buy one put it on and then run tests to see that I am right. It's called empirical evidence.
Bob Craven Lancs...Space is Safer Campaigner

Agree (4) | Disagree (4)

As in so many cases that appear in this website, there are forever differing opinions. There are calls for scientific evaluations, and those of common sense, though out on the roads the latter is not so common, nor is it amongst those who would want all strapped into cushioned cocoons by law, or removed from the controls of a vehicle.

'Being seen' was, as mentioned, a campaign to draw awareness of how darkly clothed pedestrians can be almost invisible to a driver in a dark street. Carrying a newspaper made you more visible. But here is the nub: you can dress in flourescent clothing, be lit up like a Christmas tree, and still be involved in a collision, because the person who should be doing the 'seeing' - is not.

All the road safety seminars, all the campaigns for this law or that, will achieve nothing if the driver, rider or pedestrian on their first outing onto the public highways are not instructed - educated, on a one to one basis from someone with the correct ability to teach not just the essential basics, but the effects of inattention and the results of not allowing sufficient space in front and around, of the effects of speed and mass.

Modern vehicles have become extensions of the living room, and fitted with protective devices which have undoubtedly saved many lives, but if the driver is using the vehicle's power and sound systems to such an extent that the windscreen becomes another play station screen in which their immediate environment is made so secure such that they cannot be hurt, day-glo and lights will not protect the vulnerable from such people, they simply will not see you - the bend, the mud in the road, the pushchair, or even the speedometer.

So called Road Safety Experts can talk shop as much as they like, you can hold as many 'Global Safety Weeks' as there are in a year - it won't have any effect until education at point of commencement of an experience is made more thorough.

National Cup-Cake week has just ended. Did anyone notice?
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (6) | Disagree (0)

The whole notion of this kind of activity being labelled as "victim blaming" really annoys me as it is purely a by-product of our compensation culture and the fact that lawyers will find any possible way to attribute contributory negligence in these civil cases (and therefore reduce the compensation paid out by their client).

Instead of lambasting safety professionals for trying to prevent and mitigate the incidents in the first place I think these efforts would be far better directed at the parasites looking to profit from others' misfortunes!
Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire

Agree (8) | Disagree (0)

I find your criticism on hi-vis clothing astonishing and unwarranted Bob. Even a cursory glance at the photo above and your eyes should go straight to the 5 individuals because their attire is ..erm eye catching. Driving along a road and anyone even several hundred yards ahead in hi-vis clothing are noticeable - they've therefore served their purpose surely? I'm sure the Irish authorities are not suggesting that the wearers should not at the same time look out for themselves. Road users seeing and being aware of each other is a fundamental aspect of road safety. I too spent many years working in, on or around the highway amongst traffic and wouldn't have even contemplated doing so without such clothing - apart from the fact that it was mandatory anyway. Do you really think, at night, a torch is going to be more noticeable than headlights picking up reflective clothing?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (7) | Disagree (0)

Common sense?. I do wish the Police (in Ireland) would show some and give out torches instead of high vis. At least they will be visible during the dark hours to come this winter. I was in the police service and also have ridden motorcycles since the 1960s. I have been advised on many things. I saw the introduction of helmets in the 70s and also the advice to wear day glo and also show headlights. I wear Hi vis and ride defensively, not like an Advanced Rider. I was wearing day glo and lighting on at 9.40pm in 1984 when I was knocked off my bike in a smidsy at a junction. I support the need for conspicuity but also understand its failings and don't want others to believe that when wearing it one no longer has to look out for oneself. Especially children who are not well known for their common sense. Sounds like common sense to me to warn others of that danger otherwise they may find themselves in trouble and that's not nit picking.
Bob Craven Lancs... Space is Safer Campaigner

Agree (3) | Disagree (3)

I never cease to be amazed at the nit-picking attitudes evident on this site from some people. Some contributors seem so eager to display their omniscience that they forget basic common sense.

I can trust nobody but myself when it comes down to my safety. I wear items of hi-vis clothing and various bits of retro-reflective stuff as both a pedestrian and a cyclist. Both my cycling shoes and my motorcycling boots have retro-reflective material on the heels, low to the ground where they are more likely in the beam of dipped headlights. I know that it may not work in every situation, but it sometimes improves people's ability to detect me. It is not victim blaming; it is an attempt on my part to take ownership of my safety. What is there not to like about that? Years ago the Public Information films advised us to wear something light at night, or even to carry a rolled-up newspaper under one's arm in the days when most clothing was very sombre. This intervention is the modern equivalent.

Being stopped either as a ped (sorry Duncan, if that abbreviation offends you), or a cyclist, by the Police who then give you a hi-vis jacket (along with some salient words of advice, no doubt) is going to be something that sticks in the mind.

It is a very positive thing for the Police to involve themselves in, and I thoroughly applaud the initiative.
David, Suffolk

Agree (15) | Disagree (2)

No Hugh.
I have stated that in bright daytime conditions day glo or hi vis is valuable but it needs a good light source. However, in darker conditions it appears as useful as an ashtray on a motorcycle and take it from me I have worn them all.

When it comes to reflective strips they also need a light source and one that is almost shining directly at them. If about 7 deg on either side they fail to light up as they should, so another almost useless item. When it comes to other street lighting unless they are within the same plane (line of sight and close to in terms of height etc.) as the recipients eyesight they will not work.

The danger therefore is very much a presumption that one will be seen, when in many or most of the dangerous lighting circumstances in autumn winter and spring they won't.

As stated before, only direct lighting on garments in poor lighting condition has any chance of being seen and then as pointed out by Duncan it has to compete with all other forms of external street lighting which is made more difficult in wet weather conditions where we also have light reflections. As a police officer for 20 years I have knowledge and experience of these facts.

Omnidirectional lighting as in a red rear light will show the strip up red in colour from all of the surrounding 180 deg. of the source of illumination. However an object, be it a pedestrian or cyclist, needs to be close to the almost unidirectional front headlights which do not display light 180 deg and which are also dipped to hit the road surface with no parallel beam shining to the front.
Bob Craven, Lancs...Space is Safer Campaigner

Agree (3) | Disagree (6)

Bob - anyone wearing hi-vis stands out in daylight - look at any crowd scene/football match and the police/stewards etc. stand out. At night, I think the idea is that the vehicles' headlights will pick them out. Aren't the reflective strips retro-reflective anyway as per traffic signs i.e. light from any direction will reflect 'omni-directionally' as you put it?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (4) | Disagree (2)

Night vision and illuminated night vision are very interesting subjects and have been studied most intently in the military as well as in the aviation and maritime industries. These studies reveal that there are significant limitations in the human visual processing system that make them pretty poor at nighttime operations. In spite of this knowledge and understanding however Mr King assures us that street lighting enables a non-flourescent ped (I'm sure he means pedestrian) or cyclist to be seen from far more than 30m! No mention of the fact that street lighting and other lights from shops and oncoming vehicles etc cast intense shadows that can easily conceal a person from view.

Retro-reflective material is pretty clever stuff and although it does have it's limitations such as when it's occluded it's still a lot better than nothing.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

Agree (7) | Disagree (0)

Light is necessary to see day glow. So no light, no see. Light directed upon the high-vis jackets is needed for the illumination and reflective ability - so no direct light, defused light or no light at all means no day glow and no illuminating strip. This makes it useless in dark conditions. Even on a bicycle some dipped headlights don't go high enough to hit the reflective strips.

Would be much better to have some light emitting from some article of clothing, or accessory, so that it can be seen such like an illuminated armband or hat. Something like that emits light and doesn't need a random light source.
Bob Craven, Lancs. Space is Safe Campaigner

Agree (4) | Disagree (1)

I would think this is aimed at pedestrians using non-street lit rural roads where there may be no footways, whereas cyclists would always benefit from wearing them, simply because they are mingling with traffic and need to be easily seen.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (9) | Disagree (1)

Poorly lit pedestrians and cyclists, surely that's a misnomer in terms? Day glow and reflective strips do not work in poor lighting conditions they only reflect light into the eyes in the day. The light reflective strips only reflect light if it is shone almost directly on them. To have one being worn on a jacket within the direct lighting of a vehicles headlights is OK but if the pedestrian or cyclists is side on then the directional lights at the front of vehicles doesn't reflect upon the strips.

In fact the best time for them to be seen is in the rear view mirror where the rear lights are Omni directional and the strip reflects that light much better.

PS, I don't think that they can or should be criticised for trying to make our children and cyclists more apparent in dark lighting conditions, but that does need to be proper illumination and not reliant upon other piecemeal light sources.
Bob Craven, Lancs. Space is Safe Campaigner

Agree (5) | Disagree (1)

This seems to be a clear case of marginalisation of walking/cycling and victim blaming. It ignores the fact that in most urban and built up areas then the street lighting enables a non-flourescent ped or cyclist to be seen from far more than 30m. It also ignores the fact that a typical stopping distance at 30mph is 23m. And at 20mph its just 12m.

The Garda are known for having a very lax attitude to speed limit enforcement and the idea of police claiming that "proper" kit is required to walk or cycle on streets in County Mayo is ridiculous. The message they should be hammering home is "Be safe, there will always be pedestrians and cyclists around in urban areas."

Of course, given that most crashes involve cars driving into cars, then it would appear far more sensible to make flourescent paintwork compulsory for motor cars rather than the "black" that seems to be the current fashion.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (16) | Disagree (10)