Call to remove mandatory learner hi-vis

The Victorian Motorcycle Council has called to remove mandatory hi-vis vests for learner riders in its 10-page submission to the review of Victorian Road Safety (Driver) Regulations.

Among many changes to the road rules, the road regs review proposes one demerit point for learner riders who do not wear a “securely fastened” hi-vis vest and for failing to display an L plate.

The VMC say there is no proven road safety benefit in either proposal and claim the decreased air flow from a securely fastened vest “could cause accelerated fatigue and heat stress”.

Hi-vis mandated

The learner hi-vis rule was introduced in 2014 despite the state government’s road safety committee citing a European road safety research that found the benefits of wearing a high-visibility vest depended on the time of day and location.

Since its introduction, there has been no study into its effect on crashes among learners and the Traffic Accident Commission does not differentiate learner riders in its statistics. 

South Australia is now proposing hi-vis vests for learner riders as well as a night curfew and higher ages for learner permits.

We could not find any similar hi-vis rules throughout the world except France where all riders must have a minimum fluoro requirement on their jackets.

All riders (and drivers) in France must also carry a hi-vis vest and wear it if broken down on the side of the roads.

Most motorcycle police around the world wear hi-vis gear.

Victoria Solo Unit motorcycle police uniforms

However, it didn’t stop this British copper from being hit by a driver who just didn’t look.


Contrary evidence

University of Melbourne Chair of Statistics and bike rider Prof Richard Huggins has called to remove the rule since it was introduced.

The Prof has reviewed several international studies on motorcycle conspicuity and “look but fail to see” accidents and says there is “sufficient doubt” of the effectiveness of hi-vis to call for a repeal of the mandatory requirement.

He says the studies had 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.

When the law was introduced, the VMC cited Prof Huggins’s research and objected to the rule on several grounds:

  • Wearing hi-vis clothing may impart a false sense of security for novice riders;
  • 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;
  • All bikes have hard-wired headlights yet no research has been done on how this affects hi-visibility; and
  • If hi-vis is a real safety issue, why are there no greater penalties for drivers who crash into people wearing them?

Remove L plate proposal

The Road Safety Regulations paper also proposes one demerit point for failing to correctly display an L plate.

The VMC has called to remove the proposal, saying it is not a safety issue.

They say a plate can easily fall off a motorcycle resulting in a rider losing their licence and their only mode of transport.

“There is no road safety risk or road user behaviour targeted by the sanction, therefore no genuine road safety objective served,” their submissions says.

“A motorcycle is an arduous exposed environment, experiencing vibration, winds, rain, road grime/fumes and sunlight/UV exposure.

“L plates are typically plastic, embrittle with time and are not very resilient to these exposed service conditions.

“As a result, an L-plate may fall off during a ride without the knowledge of the rider since plates are affixed to the rear of the motorcycle.”

Click here to read the full VMC submission.

Source