Biomotion study finds that pedestrians wearing retroreflective gear on arms & legs were noticed at distances 10 times longer than those wearing retroreflective vest on chest alone

Did you know that pedestrian fatalities have increased by 35% in the past twelve years?

A recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that your clothing choices during hours of darkness could majorly affect your visibility to drivers and other road users. In 2018, 76% of all pedestrian deaths from vehicle accidents occurred after dark.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, some of the ways that we can alleviate this problem include improved street lighting, lower speed limits in areas where pedestrian traffic is high, and increased police patrols at night, but there are a number of precautions that pedestrians can take, as well, to increase their own safety while walking at night – starting with wearing high visibility clothing.

High visibility clothing made of "retroreflective" materials that reflect light back in the same direction it originates can greatly increase the distance at which drivers can see pedestrians which, in turn, gives drivers more time and space to stop safely and avoid a collision.

Moreover, a study exploring the effects of how biological motion can make pedestrians more conspicuous to drivers at night showed that people in a moving vehicle noticed pedestrians wearing retroreflective strips on their arms and legs at distances that were 10 times longer than when pedestrians were wearing only a retroreflective vest on their chest. Biological motion – or biomotion – uses the innate ability of humans to recognize the movements of other humans by their motion.

A drawback of retroreflective markers, of course, is that they only work when they are illuminated by an outside light source like car headlights, but pedestrians can overcome this drawback by incorporating LED lights into their clothing to further increase their visibility on the road.

When it comes to cyclists, a pilot study comparing the visibility of bike-mounted lights and retroreflective materials worn by the cyclist themselves showed that flashing head and tail lights were detected from farther away than biomotion bands worn by the cyclist during both day and night conditions. These results show how the attention-grabbing nature of flashing light can draw additional attention of drivers and improve the safety of both cyclists and pedestrians alike.

It is important to remember, however, that the mere use of retroreflective clothing or flashing LED lights should not result in pedestrians or cyclists overestimating their visibility to motor vehicles in the street environment. Research has shown that pedestrians tend to overestimate their visiblity while also dangerously underestimating the benefits of high visibility clothing, though educating pedestrians about this tendency to overestimate their visibility has proven to effective.

While there are many paths to reducing pedestrian fatalities on the road, the impact of pedestrians taking the initiative to make themselves more conspicuous through retroreflective clothing and LED-based lighting is undeniable.


Source: This story contains excerpts taken from an original article published by Massive Science on April 5, 2020 titled "Day or night, retroreflective and light-up gear can save pedestrians' and cyclists' lives" and other sources that have been linked in this article.