Professor debunks hi-vis clothing

Hi-vis motorcycle clothing candy

A University of Melbourne professor and bike rider who was hit by a car while he was wearing hi-vis clothing has called for the Victorian Government to axe its mandatory hi-vis requirement for new riders.

Prof Richard Huggins

Prof Richard Huggins, Chair of Statistics, says he has reviewed several 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.

“I also note that somewhat surprisingly given its reputation as a leader in road safety, there seems to be little Victorian research into the effect of cognitive factors on car/motorcycle collisions,” he says.

Prof Huggins goes through several examples of how hi-vis research is flawed, but ends with his very own example of a crash involving his Kawasaki: “I should add that I regularly wear a hi-visibility jacket when riding and have been hit by a car while wearing this clothing. The driver claimed they didn’t see me, from a distance of less than 2m, as they changed lanes on top of me. This adds to my doubts on hi-visibility clothing as a panacea.”

Prof on his Kwaka

“I wasn’t badly hurt in my  accident. Slid along the road but didn’t hit anything too hard,” Richard told MotorbikeWriter. These days he rides a Triumph Street Triple in the Yarra Valley most weekends and a little scooter  around town.

The Victorian Motorcycle Council has included Prof Huggins’s letter in a further response to the government over the misconceived legislation.

In an accompanying document sent to Gary Blackwood, the Parliamentary Secretary for Transport, VMC secretary Jeremy Walton points out how hi-vis is a safety myth and calls for the reversal of the proposal. Among his claims are:

  • 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; and
  • All bikes have hard-wired headlights yet no research has been done on how this affects hi-visibility.
  • He says that if hi-vis is a real safety issue, why are there no greater penalties for drivers who crash into people wearing them?

The VMC has instead called for more education for drivers and riders.

DayGlo Queensland Police
DayGlo Queensland Police


  1. I think hi viz has simply become too common. 30 years ago only the police and ambulance services wore it so it stood out and got your attention! Not abolutely everyone wears it kids, postmen, builders, canvassers, bicycle and motorbike riders, runners the list goes on. The fact is you are so over exposed to to hi viz you become perceptually blind to it!

  2. Of all the bikes I’ve had there’s only two that I have never felt invisible on. One was a big white ex-cop K series BMW. Traffic parted for me like Moses parting the Red Sea. The other was an all black Harley. The average driver sees both of them as a threat (!). Richard is 100% correct. It’s not about being visible, it’s all about cognitive factors.

    Interestingly one of the reports that VicRoads is using to justify hi-viz states that it is less effective than a dark colour on a country road. In other words, by their own reasoning, they are happy to place country riders at risk.

  3. In your photo of the Prof on his Kawasaki – well, he’ ISN’T very visible, is he? Might just be the photo, but some bikes do just blend into the scenery, even with lights on – especially black ones.
    Compulsory Hi-viz bikes? Oh lord no!
    But maybe DRLs are a good idea – perhaps the TAC could shout every registered bike a pair from their $500 million profit…

    1. By the same token, I wonder if you have full hi-viz everything, and you look like a bit of dork, will the car drivers NOT see you because you don’t look like a threat?

  4. I’ve been a postie for 30 years and for me, I believe that it has made some people look twice. If only once person has a second look because I’m wearing hi-vis, then I think it’s worth it. By the same token, I know of plenty of idiot drivers that didn’t see a Postie…

  5. Mark,

    Good article but another issue raised by the VMC which needs highlighting is the question: if hi-vis is so important where is the legislation to require other vulnerable road users to wear hi-vis?

  6. you couldbe wearing hi vis clothing…… 100 flashing lights…… fog horn sounding every 10 seconds and car drivers still wouldnt see or hear you …why because they dont look simple as that….

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