Thursday, August 14, 2014

On Wearing Bright Clothing While Walking

We are often advised to wear bright clothing while walking, especially when walking at night.  This is so important that the Department of Transportation, in its reports on collisions involving people walking, classifies victims according to the clothing they were wearing:  "mixed," "dark," "light," or "missing"  ("missing??"). There are also a couple categories for different types of reflective clothing.

In Seattle, lots more people wearing dark or "mixed" clothing are hit while walking than people wearing light clothing, and in 2011, only six people wearing reflective clothing were hit while walking (Seattle Department of Transportation 2011 Traffic Report, p. 7-21).

I do see a lot of people walking around at night in dark clothing.  For example, people coming out of the Seattle Opera and the Pacific Northwest Ballet at night often wear dark clothing.  This is also true of symphony patrons at Benaroya Hall.

For the sake of safety, these organizations should provide reflective vests for patrons to wear as they walk out onto the street.

It would also be advisable for those of us who park our cars on neighborhood streets to keep reflective vests in our cars to wear when walking to our homes.

The Traffic Report mentioned above does not give any information about the color of cars involved in collisions.  I have noticed a lot of dark-colored cars driving around at night.  Seattle Department of Transportation should look into this.


  1. "Missing" clothing? Wild guess: does "missing" just mean there is no value for that variable in the data? This seems more likely than a large percentage of accidents involving nude pedestrians.

    As far as safety vests, yeah, it seems adaptive to one's environment to carry safety vests, reflective pants clips, reflective tags on bags, reflective piping on shoes. BUT if I am going to the opera, a nice functional reflective vest sounds like a fashion SNORE. I wish some reflective gear were fun designs that one could imbed in clothing or snap into buttonholes or wrap around shoes in decorative patterns.

  2. The City of Kenmore was giving out reflective vests for people to wear while walking. This is an even worse "solution" than the flags to cross the street in Kirkland.

  3. I find silver cars very sneaky--almost invisible sometimes--and that's the #1 car color sold in the US. Perhaps car manufacturers should be given a list of acceptable ("safe") paint colors to use. No more style choices.
    Because of course we don't have a duty of care for others on the street.

  4. Car color is in fact related to crash risk, but more so in the daylight than at night. Here's a study from Australia on the topic. I don't especially want to regulate car color. I just don't want to be lectured about the clothing I wear to take out the garbage or walk to the bus stop. Or go to the opera.