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4 situations to assess your visibility when travelling at night

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Looking to improve your visibility when working or traveling at night? Here are 4 examples that will allow you to better understand how you are perceived by other road users according to your equipment in order to improve your safety.

For this purpose, we will place ourselves from the point of view of a motorist driving at night on an unlit road. The situations are ranked from the least favorable to the most favorable.

Case 1: If you wear dark clothes

As soon as the sun sets, the color of the clothing plays a major role in the visibility of its wearer. During the day, we can see the objects around us because the light emitted by the sun is reflected (this is the phenomenon of reflection) by these objects which allows us to see them.

The darker an object is, the more light it absorbs, which reduces the amount of reflected light and therefore its visibility, especially in low light conditions. Thus, at night, a dark object is visible up to 30m if it is lit by a light source.

Let's take the example of a runner dressed in dark clothes who is jogging in the dark on an unlit road. The illustration below allows us to visualize the zone illuminated by the vehicle's lights from 0 to 30m in which he will be visible. Beyond or outside this zone, because of the dark color of his clothes, he is little or not visible.

A runner wearing dark clothing is only visible up to 30 m from a motorist.
Visibility of a dark object on an unlit road

➡️ If stopping distances are taken into account, the motorist would have to be traveling at less than 55 km/h to successfully stop in less than 30m and avoid the runner in the event of emergency braking.

Case 2: If you wear light-colored clothing

Using the logic of the previous paragraph, a light object absorbs less light than a dark object → its visibility therefore increases at 50m if it is illuminated by a light source.

A runner wearing light-colored clothing is only visible up to 50 m from a motorist.
Visibility of a clear object on an unlit road

Thus, in the example below, the cyclist dressed with light-colored clothes is visible by the motorist as long as he is in the zone of lighting of his low beams (which corresponds to an average distance included between 30 and 50m according to the manufacturers).

➡️ To be certain of a safe reaction, the motorist should drive at less than 70 mph if he or she does not want to hit the cyclist in an emergency brake.

⚠️ In order to limit the glare of vehicles driving in the other direction, the range of the low beam is less on the left than on the right. This means that if the cyclist is driving in the opposite direction to the blue car, his driver will only see him when he enters the lighting zone of his headlights , which is more or less 30m. This brings us back to the conditions of case 1 although the cyclist is wearing light-colored clothes.

A cyclist riding in the opposite direction of the car is visible at less than 50m even if he is wearing light clothing
Visibility of a clear object in the left lane on an unlit road

Case 3: If you are wearing high visibility equipment

High-visibility equipment is made up of fluorescent fabric (which promotes daytime visibility) and retroreflective material which, as its name indicates, promotes light reflection and therefore nighttime visibility.

Wearing retroreflective equipment such as a high visibility vest allows you to be visible up to 150m, always provided that you are illuminated by a light source. 150m is also the average range of high beam lights on a car(French law requires a minimum of 100m).

Using our example on an unlit road, a worker wearing high visibility Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be visible up to 150m by the blue car, if the latter is driving with full headlights.

A worker wearing retroreflective PPE is visible up to 150m if illuminated by the car's high beam
Visibility of an illuminated retroreflective object on an unlit road

➡️ At a distance of 150m, the motorist will be able to stop serenely as long as he drives below 120 km/h.

Note: it is obvious that in reality the worker will always be surrounded by other safety devices that will improve his visibility. He is placed alone in the above illustration as an example.

Case 4: if you wear active high visibility equipment (high visibility + LEDs)

When we performed real life tests with our WPRO1 vest, we found that the 6 orange LEDs, placed on the back, were visible up to 600m. This distance can go up to 1000m if we replace the 6 orange LEDs by 9 white LEDs. Beyond that, we did not find a straight road long enough to perform tests 😉.

Another advantage of an active high visibility garment is that even if the blue car's lights were to fail, the wearer's visibility would not be impaired because the LED vest does not depend on any light source.

Visibility of a worker wearing an Active High Visibility LED vest on an unlit road

➡️ No matter how fast the motorist is going (within the limits of the current speed limits), he will have plenty of time to anticipate the presence of the worker.

At night it is better not to be dependent on an external light source.

To ensure maximum visibility and safety at night, it is preferable to emit its own light source so as not to be dependent on external equipment or those of vehicles. An active LED high visibility vest fulfills this function perfectly without adding any additional constraint and combines the advantages of a classic high visibility equipment.

If no such device is available, be sure to wear bright clothing and at least one retroreflective device.

The table below summarizes the maximum visibility of a person according to his equipment:

Summary table of the visibility of a person according to his equipment

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