Study: High-visibility jackets do little to protect cyclists

Laws that force cyclists to wear high-visibility clothes do nothing to reduce the number of road accidents involving people on bikes, a study has found.

Last year the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) passed a motion at its annual conference in Killarney in favour of making helmets and “high-vis” clothing compulsory for cyclists. 

In Italy, a nationwide law was introduced in October 2010 that requires cyclists to wear high-visibility clothing when riding after dusk and before dawn.

However the Journal of Transport & Health has published a long-term study of Italian road statistics from before and after the introduction of this law that has cast doubt on its effectiveness.

Gabriele Prati of the Department of Psychology at the University of Bologna looked at both the number of bicycles involved in crashes and the proportion of accidents involving bicycles on a monthly basis between the years 2001 and 2015.

“The data showed that the implementation of legislation imposing high-visibility clothing for cyclist did not have either immediate or long-term effects on the number of bicycles involved in road crashes as well as on its proportion in the total vehicles involved in road crashes,” the study concluded.

“Therefore, the findings of the study provide reason for caution about mandating the use of high-visibility clothing for cyclists,” it said.

The same journal also published a study from Nottingham that warned that high-visibility clothing could put cyclists at “increased risk of collisions if cyclists using conspicuity aids believe themselves to be more conspicuous to motorists than they actually are”.

Mike McKillen of Cyclist.ie, The Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, said the debate over mandatory high-visibility clothing is a distraction from the need to enforce road traffic laws.

“We know from international road safety literature already that conspicuousness of vulnerable road users is not the issue in road safety terms but rather distracted driving or failure of the driver to properly scan the horizon for all travel modes on or near the carriageway,” Mr McKillen said.

“Traffic law is quite uncompromising about duties of a driver. A person shall not drive a vehicle in a public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the place.

“Preaching about hi-vis is a clear distraction from the pressing need to stop distracted and inattentive driving. Swaddling vulnerable road users in hi-vis or body-armour detracts from this mission and ducks the duty on gardaí to enforce the law when it comes to speeding, too-close overtaking of cyclists, parking in cycle tracks, etc” he said.

A Road Safety Authority spokesperson said there are no plans to make wearing high visibility clothing mandatory in this country.


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