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Video shows hi-vis does not work – even for cops!

Police hi-vis high visibility clothing

This British video of a police officer with sirens going and a hi-vis jacket and bike shows that some motorists still don’t see riders.

It shows a police special escort group of BMW R 1200 bikes escorting British Prime Minister Theresa May with the Metropolitan Police’s Protection Command in London.

Right from the start it shows a van driver doesn’t even see the police officer with hi-vis gear, flashing lights and sirens.

This video comes as a Monash University report into motorcycle accidents suggest riders and bikes be more visible.

The report, quaintly titled “Current Trends in Motorcycle-Related Crash and Injury Risk in Australia by Motorcycle Type and Attributes” suggests promoting high-visibility motorcycle clothing and research into its effects.

It also suggests increasing motorcycle visibility technology such as modulating headlights.

Well, the British police officer above has his motorcycle lights flashing but still wasn’t seen.Police hi-vis high visibility clothing

If even bike cops officers can’t be seen, what more could we riders possibly do to be seen and heard on the road?

Most riders resist mandatory hi-vis gear as is required for Victorian novice riders and France where riders have to carry a hi-vis vest to wear the vest during a breakdown.

Many claim they are still not seen even when wearing bright gear and on brightly coloured motorcycles.

Hi-vis myth debunked

While Monash Uni suggests hi-vis, Prof Richard Huggins of University of Melbourne says there is no research that proves hi-vis vests aid safety.

Richard says he has studied many scientific studies about hi-vis clothing and says there is no conclusive evidence it is safer for riders.

However, there are several international studies with varied findings suggesting:

  • Dark clothing is more visible in certain lighting situations;
  • Hi-vis rider gear may be less visible in certain conditions; and
  • Hi-vis clothing could create a “target fixation” for motorists, causing them to steer toward the wearer.

Richard also says he regularly wears a hi-visibility jacket when riding, but has still been hit by a car.

“The driver claimed they didn’t see me, from a distance of less than 2m, as they changed lanes on top of me,” he says.Hi-vis vest

The Victorian Motorcycle Council also says hi-vis is a safety myth, claiming:

  • Modern research shows that people don’t recognise or react to motorcycles, rather than not seeing them at all;
  • Drivers are more likely to see a bike but make an error in timing; and
  • All bikes have hard-wired headlights yet no research has been done on how this affects hi-visibility.

Some say group rides with lead and tail-end riders in hi-vis vests destroys our argument.

However hi-vis vests on group rides are not worn for safety reasons. They are there to help distinguish those riders from the others so that riders don’t accidentally pass the lead rider or fall behind the sweep.

Hi-vis vest age submission
Tail-end Charlie
  1. Video doesn’t prove anything, it’s all shot on long lenses that compress perspective, the van was not as close to the copper as the video makes it appear, poor choice for an example.

    1. Hi PS,
      I’m sure there are many other examples we could have used, but this is the most recent.
      Also, it may not be as close it appears, as you say, but the cop doesn’t thinks so. Look at him shake his head in disbelief!

  2. Just kids(monash Uni) talking about a subject they know nothing about…. go talk to riders & get the correct data….car design(wide windscreen pillars)electronic devices in cars,& simply failing to look is why car drivers hit cyclists & motorcyclists…. full stop,end of story

    1. I don’t know if you have actually read the report, and I haven’t read it myself yet, but at least one of the authors is a motorcycle rider and none of them are ‘kids’.

  3. Just had a quick look on YouTube and can find literally hundreds (if not thousands) of videos of motorcyclists crashing because of SMIDSY. Did a similar search centred on motorcycle cops with lights and sirens and found 2 videos. Definitely not a peer reviewed research based on imperial evidence, but as a rough guide I’d say that the evidence would lean to it being safer to have high-vis, lights and sirens. Either way, I don’t think that one video can be used as evidence to completely discount the Monash report or state concusively that “High Vis does not work” as your article is titled.

  4. Morning Mark,

    I am first to admit that Hi-Vis has a time and place however this is not it. At least not all the time.

    Once again this is another “research” project (and I use the term loosely) to make a vain and poor attempt to shift complete responsibility back to the most vulnerable in the situation. Unfortunately this will continue with the ALP whipping through the state election with a scythe on the weekend.

    With the ongoing shift in policing methodology we have been witness to in Victoria we no longer see “community based policing” and rarely see any police presence on the roads. So, in the vain and desperate attempt to make riders “visible”, they once again suggest wrapping the rider in hi-vis. Unfortunately they could wrap riders in Christmas lights on top of reflective panels and it would change nothing. The issue is not that riders are not visible (for the most part), the issue is that riders are not seen. Why you ask… Simple, drivers are not looking. They are so engrossed with their entertainment units, gorging their faces while they drive with their knees, talking and or texting on their mobile phones, having screaming matches with ill mannered children, that there is no hope, even if they have a flicker of hi-vis or otherwise material to do anything before they send another rider to the ICU or the funeral home.

    How can I say this? Once again simple. We continue to see road workers and works areas (who buy the way have more hi-vis and flashing lights that any of us) taken out at the road side, we continue to see Police and other emergency vehicles struck by idiotic drivers who are otherwise engaged, all the while the emergency vehicles are bright, reflective, hi-vis and have the dreaded blue and red flashing lights and sirens to warn us. Things were so bad in fact they had to enact laws around the country to slow vehicles that are passing due to the fear for the safety of the emergency staff.

    Victoria Police operate a task force and spider web based policing strategy. They respond in mass to perceived threat and set up booze and drug bus stations and wait for the drivers to come to them. As rare as it once was, we can now daily drive from areas such as Geelong all the way to Melbourne CBD and not see one Police vehicle. Their answer is speed cameras because as they have told us, “speed kills”. However, inattention of drivers in their rolling media centres, unroadworthy vehicles, drivers failing to indicate to change lanes without looking and all other forms of erroneous driving behaviours. Unfortunately, speed cameras don’t catch any of those extremely dangerous behaviours. And for the best part, speed cameras only catch idiots as all those familiar with the areas slow down for the camera then speed up again once past. The only thing that will stop this is Police on roads. Why are we seeing more of it? Once again simple. Police have not been in the community or on the roads for so long, drivers just do what they like with impunity.

    Our govt and Police need a real wake up and in fact, growing up before anything will ever change. Until then they will follow the easiest path and blame the bad guys in leather on two wheels.

  5. The heading should say “Video shows ONE INSTANCE where hi-vis does not work – even for cops!”
    It looks more like the van driver saw the cop, thought he was not the copper’s target, had right of way and proceeded when he was not signalled to stop.
    Next trip with a group, take note of which riders you can see ahead of you. The popular universal black outfits blend and are no more noticeable than the road (and are less obvious than the dark cars). The one you will see is the bright coloured helmet or the hi-vis strips on somebody’s jacket. If you are involved in a collision, bright colours at least reduce the tin tops’ excuses for claiming they did not see you. They will probably admit they did see the brighter colours.

  6. Not a very good video to use in the argument as it is not clear if the van driver didn’t see the cop at all or in time to safely stop for him. If the cop was running a red light the van driver may not have even been looking for vehicles coming from a side street but straight ahead at his path. I have seen a number of instances where drivers have driven into fire truck police cars and ambulances all with lights and sirens some even running a red light to do so.
    It may be that the sirens and flashing lights causes a hypnotic effect that stuns the few operating brain cells some drivers have.

    1. In addition, the camera seemed to have zoomed it a lot, so the actual distance between the van and the police officer might be much bigger than it appears here. Also, London traffic might be used to see the Prime Minister being chauffeured around like this and since no Autocade was directly following, he might have sped away in purpose to not wait for the Autocade to arrive. Really not a good example here against Hi-Viz.

  7. The missing statistic is the one that will prove hi-vis works, and that is, crashes avoided. But none has such a statistics because it’s unabel to be reported. Realistically hi-vis could be saving lives every day (or not) because I saw you and avoided an accident.

  8. Good Afternoon Mark,

    Reading responses to this thread has been interesting to say the least. There seems to be several supporters of Hi-Vis, and rightly so, as previously detailed, the efficacy of Hi-Vis in certain situations is valid. However, that said, the comments I have seen seem to be more intent on devaluing the video above or supporting Hi-Vis as a valid solution (I can only assume in all circumstances) as no-one has wished to discuss the numerous other issues causing injury and death to motorcyclists. Of note, I am now wondering if anyone actually believes there are any other serious issues and honestly believes that a shiny vest is a true solution.

    Unfortunately, because of a complete lack of any solidarity among riders as to actually addressing the issues we as riders face on the roads, we within the structure have absolutely nothing behind us or our words when trying to address the very serious issues when we are at the table. This will only result in blame shifting to riders more and more.

  9. On a side note.
    I watched a YouTube clip from Lethos law he’s a lawyer who does a lot of videos on legal matters in the USA . He did a comment on milenials not knowing how to drive.
    People were blaming phones and other distractions for the inability of some drivers to make it through a left turn at lights without an arrow. They would sit at the stop line and miss several changes of lights until a gap would open instead of entering the intersection and turning or Amber or even red as you’re allowed to do.
    He put it down to lack of education. As a kid he had drivers ed taught in school but it was abolished and now new drivers are making mistakes older drivers never would or being dangerously cautious.
    Hiviz only helps a tiny bit but it’s a lot better than the effective camouflage that is the popular choice . Proper education of kids before they become drivers or riders would save many more lives than bandaid measures like mandatory hiviz.

  10. Years ago I remember reading some research that evaluated the perceived visibility of various category of vehicle. According to the research (which, unfortunately, I can no longer locate) the most “invisible” vehicle on the road was a motorcycle. It then went on to list the perceived visibility of other vehicles from cars to trucks and buses. However, the most “visible” vehicle on the road was a Police motorcycle. This was at a time when there were lots of police motorcycles, but no pursuit cars. This reminds me of two related incidents that happened to me.

    At about the same time as reading this research I was employed by a bike distributor. One of my duties was to deliver Police Motorcycles (BSA’s at the time – shows my age). Riding to and from work on my own bike I was often the subject of SMYDSY moments. But, riding the Police bikes was a different matter – drivers could see me from any direction and any distance. Sailing through intersections with no other vehicle within cooee was a wonderful experience! I recommend that all riders should buy, borrow or steal a Police bike.

    The second occurred much later while I commuted along Victoria Rd in Sydney on a daily basis. One other rider whom I often saw rode a white BMW K100RT with checkered stickers on the fairing and the word “Polite” printed on the front. I always thought it was a good ploy. One day he appeared on the bike but without the checkered stickers and the word Polite. On asking I was told he had been charged, and convicted, of impersonating a Police officer. So, I guess making yourself visible brings the wrath of the law.

    On a more serious note, as many articles have indicated there is no evidence to support or refute the use of high visibility clothing. But, why should we enact laws based on evidence? It is often at odds with ideology and beliefs. Don’t get me started on that!

    There appears to be a reasonable amount of research on the psychophysical aspects of visibility including how it relates to motorcycles. Unfortunately, all you can access are abstracts without paying for the full article – something I’m not prepared to do at the moment.

  11. This is just a case of a driver unsure of what to do. The police officer is slowing down, the driver assumes he’s giving him right of way, so he proceeds. We’ve all been in this situation where we’re genuinely confused and keep motoring in the absence of any directive to do otherwise. And on the matter of high vis clothing, all the police forces of the world obviously think it works. Of course it works. Those opposing it should just ‘fess up and admit they don’t want to wear it instead of challenging its effectiveness. The good professor should also ‘fess up that he was obviously riding in the driver’s blind spot if the driver “changed lanes on top of him”. We’re all drivers as well as riders. Be honest, we SEE those guys on bikes in high vis clothing! The extreme example are the posties. Can see ’em coming for miles!! If people really don’t want to be forced to wear high vis I don’t have a problem with that. Just say so. But stop using “it doesn’t work as your argument. It’s dishonest.

  12. I do with Stefan that the camera angle and long shot does not give full detail of the incident. As for the head shake, I would have taken that as the officer is directing the van to go – not in disbelief. If he wanted the van to stop he would place himself in front of it to do so. I have an associated who was one of these cyclists. Yes, there is an issue of being seen but they do not speed and set a steady pace ready for the following parade to follow. As for the statement that they use sirens on these runs they DO NOT. These special escort bikes only use whistles as they realise that the people of London do not respond to sirens as there so many going off all the time. They use whistles as the public respond better to this.

  13. FACT: If something is not even in your field of vision then it cannot be noticed. If a driver isn’t even looking in the general direction of a flashing neon man, then he will not see him. Hi-vis gear obviously allows you to be more visible because the hi-vis colors take more energy to process so they catch the eye thus being “noticed” more than naturally occurring colors that the eyes can skip over easily. Wearing brown or black or even grey will not help your case as a biker, but wearing neons or white will. That simple really.

  14. He clearly does see him and just exercises his right of way anyhow.
    Technically nothing legally wrong with not giving way to an emergency service vehicle. Bit naughty, but I wouldn’t say he broke the law…. as he clearly shows some level of remorse as he looks at the officer shaking his head at him.

    This is why I don’t like Journalists. Just lying all the time.
    Over dramatized nonsense.

    I agree… a high vis jacket and blue strobes don’t grantee peoples attention.
    But this is not a good example of that fact at all.

    In summary… A GOOD point… Poorly made!

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