Image Source: RollingNews.ie

 

We’ve been travelling around the United Kingdom and Ireland for the past month and have noticed a concerning parallel with Australia and the USA: pedestrians and cyclists wearing high visibility (hi-vis) at all times of the day, even on quiet streets with footpaths and in clear conditions.

Over the past ten years we have spent a lot of time travelling around the word and documenting our experiences, and we have never once seen a local person out for a bike ride or dog walk wearing a construction-site grade hi-vis vest in most countries that we have visited. It’s not to say it doesn’t happen – but it is very unusual and uncommon.

This blend of Stockholm syndrome, poor quality infrastructure, and victim blame culture has now boiled over in car-centric countries to the point that regular folk, walking their dog on a nice afternoon, now feel obliged to wear a high visibility safety vest “for their own safety”.

Imagine the headlines: “Pedestrian on afternoon walk accidentally hit by car: Wasn’t wearing correct hi-vis clothing!”

The situation can not be described as anything other than absurd.

Now, we’re not saying that hi-vis clothing is ineffective at making a person more visible while on the road. It definitely can help in certain circumstances: Bright, florescent colours during the day, and reflective patches on moving limbs at night in particular.

But it’s a shame that there is now a culture where people consider it essential for their own safety, and if anything happens to them, for example they are hit by an inattentive motorist, then it is their own fault. This is wrong, and is a noxious part of our victim blame culture that has been growing in car-centric countries of the world.

In the vast majority of situations, when a pedestrian or cyclists is hit by a motor vehicle, they are not the ones at fault. The word ‘accident’ is an affront to all the victims of motor vehicle injuries and deaths. It is either the driver that is at fault, fatigue, effects of drugs, or simply dangerous driving habits, or the vehicle which is at fault, specifically if there is a manufacturing defect, or the road design and layout, of which road engineers are responsible, that is at fault!

Even in the extreme situation where a drunk, darkly clothed pedestrian stumbles in front of a vehicle and is hit, it is still arguable that motorists have a duty of care to drive slow enough, and carefully enough, to anticipate and be able to avoid a fatal collision with that person. Not only that, but road design and speed limits, especially in busy areas with high activity, should always be favourable to pedestrian and cyclist welfare – not oriented to motorists speeding along to arrive a few minutes earlier.

It’s time that we shared the responsibility to attain a zero annual death rate of pedestrians and cyclists in car-centric countries. We need to stop blaming victims, and start looking at more proactive solutions.

Motorists need better defensive driving skills and training, and take more responsibility for controlling a highly dangerous vehicle. Roads need to be designed better to reduce traffic speed and provide protected areas for vulnerable road users. And society, in general, needs to reject the biased, media-driven, victim blame culture.