Motorcycle Safety: Are High Visibility Vests the Answer?
Could High Visibility Motorcycle Safety Vests Improve Your Ride Experience?
Updated September 23, 2018
To curb traffic accidents and injuries, France has imposed a law that requires motorcyclists to wear high-visibility vests. The UK government looks to do the same for cyclists on its motorways, yet will higher visibility result in fewer accidents?
Some don’t want to be forced to protect themselves. The National Hockey League demands players wear protective helmets, yet a number of players, grandfathered in and playing before the rule, enjoy the option. And, a number of them elect to skate around sans protective headgear.
Motorists have a right to be on the road (with proper license), so is it right governments impose added laws that cost cyclists money and infringe upon freedoms and chosen style?
Some cyclists want to push back, fearing added laws that will cost even more money. The Motorcycle Action Group has stated: “We have the right to choose how and when we travel…We have a right to expect that others will treat us reasonably…”
The reasoning is that plenty of car accidents take place on UK roads each year, yet the government does not propose every car be neon green to ensure better visibility.
A representative of UK road safety is skeptical about the solution, suggesting a more ‘common sense’ approach to road safety. He believes awareness is not about what riders wear but a commitment to vigilance and the privilege of driving.
His rebuttal makes sense. For example, no matter how hyper-coloured one’s vest, it can’t compensate for being in someone’s blind spot on the road. Furthermore, the representative raises a valid point about accidents still taking place during sunny days, and, the added ‘security’ of high-visibility vests may make some car operators (and cyclists) feel safe, ironically inspiring more negligent decisions and a false sense of security.
In Australia, the state of Victoria is introducing high-vis vests – a part of a new licence system. Yet, the government has not found enough evidence to substantiate mandatory clothing for motorcyclists. Other research in the Euro area suggests that the benefits of high-vis clothing are dependant on the time of day and location of the ride. A day rider, wearing reflective gear on city roads would be more ‘visible,’ yet, according to research, a rural rider, wearing darker clothing, is safer during the day. Visit Engelbert Strauss for added information on protective gear.
France on Edge
France proposed minimum gear requirements years ago, and now more recently expanding upon that, making high-vis vests a must for all riders. The move, along with another rule regarding lane filtering, inspired protests by 100,000 French riders.
British road safety organisation, IAM, wants labels on motorcycle clothing relays the amount of provided protection. 85% of UK riders consider protection the most-important factor when buying clothing. 45% of riders believe high-vis gear should be mandated.
Conversely, while France and UK increase rules, America seems to be veering in another direction. You’ll find a number of riders in warm states like Florida and California opting to wear little but shorts and t-shirts to ride (no helmets).
Legislation takes a different angle in America, where some feel like the freedom of choice is more important than the government acting as a ‘big brother’ and mandating protective gear.
Know your bike’s limits. Motorcycles are powerful machines with the ability to quickly accelerate to great speeds, yet the fact of the matter is that riders are very vulnerable. While ‘the ride’ can be exhilarating, it requires great concentration and hyper-vigilance. Depending on the perspicuity of others is a huge mistake made by some beginners.
Motorcycles, being smaller than cars, fit in tight spots, and sometimes riders are tempted at ‘avoiding’ traffic jams by weaving in and out. However, being ‘clever’ is not always so smart when it comes to safety. Though tempting to get ahead of others or fit in tighter areas others can’t go, the whimsical nature of weaving can lead to serious disaster.
Blind spots are different for motorcyclists as compared to larger vehicles; it’s more difficult to see a cyclist following close behind, for instance. Therefore, despite flow of traffic, motorcyclists should leave more room between cars in front of them to ensure visibility, especially in high-traffic areas, where anxious drivers may quickly change lanes without ensuring no one is behind them or quickly approaching.
What is the answer to better road safety? There is no clear answer, but the UK hopes to decrease the number of motorcycle accidents and deaths by introducing high visibility gear and vests. A clear-cut identification and proof of fewer accidents may inspire other nations to follow suit.
Danielle Bruce thinks motorcyclists take a big chance by getting on a motorcycle. Although she loves to ride them herself, she knows there are ways to get where she’s going safely.