Make high-visibility vests mandatory for walking and cycling says Fianna Fail’s senate spokesperson on justice

— Senator claims he’s “not advocating for a nanny state” while wanting to force people to wear high-vis vests
— Fine Gael leader of the senate says “I agree with him”

Fianna Fail’s senate spokesperson on justice last week said they wanted to criminalise walking and cycling without high-visibility vests. The call seemed to be mainly referring to rural areas, but did not specify this.'s reader-funded journalism won't survive without your help. With over 762,000 views so-far this year, it's not just "avid cyclists" who read this website, but, if you want it to keep going, more support is needed from readers like you. Now, back to the article...

It is already illegal not to have reflectors on bicycles and people cycling can be issued with on-the-spot fines using lights in the hours of darkness. Some cycling campaigners point out that there is little evidence supporting the idea that high-vis is effective in preventing collisions.

Senator Denis O’Donovan (Fianna Fail), Fianna Fail’s senate spokesperson on justice, said: “The issue of road safety crosses my mind often because a large number of people, particularly cyclists and pedestrians, are killed on the roads. I raised the issue at the start of the session. I ask the Leader to convey to the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government my request that he make high visibility vests compulsory for cyclists and pedestrians.” Quotes are via, where the full transcript can be found.

He added: “I understand that, on average, approximately 50 of the people killed on the roads each year are not wearing high visibility vests. I frequently drive in rural areas. When negotiating country roads, especially at this time of year when we have a great deal of fog, rain and mist, it can be difficult when one encounters a walker or cyclist without a visibility vest.

“Many rules and regulations are in place governing safety in cars. The possibility of making visibility vests mandatory should be considered. I am not advocating for a nanny state but if this measure could save one or two lives each year, it should be made compulsory. Perhaps a pilot project could be introduced for children making the journey to and from school. The elderly are also particularly vulnerable as are pedestrians and cyclists,” said O’Donovan

Senator Maurice Cummins (Fine Gael), the leader of the senate, said: “Senator O’Donovan spoke about deaths on our roads, of which there have been many in recent months. He discussed the need for high-visibility vests for cyclists and pedestrians and I agree with him.”

Cummins recalled: “I remember Senator Sheahan from Kerry outlining similar circumstances not so long ago. He also stated that there is a need for such vests for pedestrians in particular. Many people walk lonely dark roads. For their own safety, in the interests of road safety and for the benefit of drivers, people should wear high-visibility vests in such circumstances. I agree with the Senator in this regard.”

As we have reported before, Senator Tom Shehan (Fine Gael) — who previous called on mandtory high-vis — said that even in cases when a pedestrian is killed, the motorist is the “most vulnerable person on the road”. He has a number of times recounted where he as a driver has had very close calls with people walking on rural roads.

MORE: High-vis can’t solve drivers’ inattentional blindness and its promotion has failed 


  1. People driving could also slow down so that they can see where they’re going….

    Or, perhaps, if people walking and cycling have to wear high-viz, it’d only be fair to make people driving wear it too. And helmets, since I’d expect more people get head injuries in cars than on bikes.

  2. What about lunatic drivers who do not use lights while driving in poor visibility conditions?
    Go out and count cars without lights driving in rain or fog? Some people think that if they can see whats outside they are also seen by others…

    Having lights on 24/7 all year long should be mandatory not hi-viz…

  3. While cycling groups and public representatives are debating Hi-Vis Vests and helmet usage they fail to address the elephant in the room, speed. Most road deaths are caused by excessive speed. These guys may as well be debating the pros and cons of different colours of hi-vis vests. When motorists show scant regard for the rule of law, then enforcement is needed. These “public representatives” should be advocating adherence to the laws we have and not proposing new ones. The track record of crime and punishment in this state for traffic offences and speeding causing death in particular is lamentable.

  4. A number of commenters here are advocating for lights on vehicles 24/7. There may well be unintended consequences with this. I don’t know, perhaps lights on cars during the day would make them more visible to all road users, but before we go there I’d like to see evidence that it does make a difference.

    Another issue is the brightness of car headlights. In recent years car headlights seem to have become ever more powerful and I find that at night I’m often dazzled and thus can’t pick out objects that would otherwise be clearly visible. This results in a type of arms race, whereby lights have to become brighter, or flasher, or whatever to make them noticeable. Car lights can be so bright that I can’t see cyclists or pedestrians who are actually otherwise quite visible. Instead of calling for pedestrians and cyclists to have to go around lit up like christmas trees, I’d recommend regulations on the max output of car headlights in towns and cities.

    Anyway, the bottom line is that it’s people in vehicles that kill other people. Not pedestrians or cyclists. Slow the feck down, be observant, drive to the conditions, expect the expectant, and don’t criminalize people out walking or cycling.

  5. Also just to add, each and every day cars plough into and mangle other cars, lamp-posts, bollards, fences, kerbs, pillars, trees, walls, sides of houses etc etc etc. Is the reason for that because they didn’t have hi-vis on them? That’s a rhetorical question, btw.

  6. If we have now gotten to the point where the entire world must be painted day-glo to make life easier for drivers, is it not about time to acknowledge that this ‘driving’ fad has gotten completely out-of-control and needs to be addressed and subject to some real control and restrictions?

  7. Hi Citizen Wolf,

    Headlights 24/7 increase visibility of cars in poor visibility conditions – many European countries nowadays require use of them 24/7 (Sweden for last 20years).

    Just as a simple example look at the below picture:

    I know that the law states that the headlights should be used in poor visibility conditions but some people do not care about that as Garda does not fine people for that…

    The fact that at night some cars are blinding other drivers is another problem:
    – car lights are not properly set
    – drivers do not bother to switch of the full beam lights (more often IMHO)
    – poor quality of the windscreen which causes light glare

  8. I have been knocked from my bike twice by cars from the rear – I use an 80 lumens rear flashing light (extremely bright) and a half watt helmet light (again, extremely bright). On top of that, a RSA hi-vis bag cover and hi-vis strips in my cycling jersey. On both occasions both drivers claimed to have not seen me – I’m 6’2″ as well – so quite large on a bike! Either there’s a lot of stupid drivers out there, or they just need to open their eyes!

  9. …or they just use it as a perfect excuse for poor driving skills or not paying proper attention – how will you prove them that they could see you?

    The same applies in number of motorcycle accidents caused by drivers – Many claim that they could not see motorcyclists but most of the time they did not look for them…

  10. To be fair, the subject is important and it’s good to see some focus on road safety for vulnerable road users. However, I get worried when I hear senior politicians looking to introduce laws based on limited facts and hearsay. The wrong decision can have unforeseen negative consequences. The introduction of mandatory helmets in Australia has resulted in fewer cyclists on the road, which in turn has made cycling more dangerous as driver awareness is diminished.

    In Ireland, we know that the main factor which puts pedestrians and cyclists at risk is the speed of vehicles around them. We are constantly reminded that “Speed kills”. We should ask if the existing penalties and enforcement are sufficient. I also think more could be done with speed cameras, traffic calming and better lighting on rural roads.

    Has anyone carried out any reliable research on the effectiveness of high-vis at reducing accidents on the roads? I know that in Holland, most people cycle in their everyday clothes, (no helmet and no high-vis). The safety record there is pretty good, mainly due to the fact so many people cycle. Awareness of cyclists is very good due to the volume on the road and that car drivers are also cyclists on shorter journeys. The infrastructure is also well developed which is a major factor too. It’s also interesting to see that the behavior of dutch cyclists seems to be just as inconsistent as anywhere else.

    The requirement to wear seat belts in cars was only introduced on the back of good scientific evidence to show the benefit to passenger safety. I hope the same principals are applied when looking at safety legislation for other road users.

  11. @Tymon
    Yes, I understand that headlights may increase visibility of cars in poor lighting conditions from a long distance. I lived in Canada a couple of times. Headlights are on 24/7 there and on very long straights (prairies) you can spot cars from a long way away. But that may not have much effect in towns and cities here.

    Anyhow, aside from that, my point (not well articulated) was that even if cars are made more visible that does nothing for pedestrians and cyclists and may even result in more danger for vulnerable road users. My reasoning is that because lights may make cars more visible, particularly in low light (very overcast, shadows as per your photo, dusk) people driving cars may become attentionally even more blind to cyclists and pedestrians because they may become complacent with regards being easily able to see other cars. That’s what I meant about unintentional consequences.

    Having lights on cars 24/7 does nothing to protect vulnerable road users and MAY even put them at more risk. Sorry for CAPS; don’t know how to italicize.

  12. @hugh
    There have been some studies, the links for which I don’t have to hand right now.

    A quick place to start would be WIKI

    One interesting study I read, (again, I don’t have the link here) said that Hi-Vis can work IF the driver is paying attention, and no difference at all if the driver isn’t paying attention. Now that may seem like a rather obvious thing, but drivers are often not paying attention for pedestrians and cyclists. They may well be paying attention for other vehicles because they know that that’s what poses a danger to them, and thus they may lapse when it comes to paying attention for something that doesn’t move or act like a car.

    From my own experience I have never yet failed to spot a cyclist whether or not they wear hi-vis or are dressed in black without lights, and that’s because I’m always on the look out for cyclists and pedestrians when driving, not just other cars. I drive within the speed limit always, and vary my driving and attention according to the conditions. That’s because I’m a cyclist myself and have come a cropper numerous times when out on my bike due to drivers simply not paying any f-cking attention.

    The last time I was run down, it was bright daylight, no visibility issues whatsoever and still got creamed by idiot in a car not looking at what they were doing.


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