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Optometrists: Cyclists, Wear Biological Motion Reflectors

21 February 2013

Optometrists Advise Cyclists to Wear Biological Motion Reflectors to Improve Night-Time Road Safety

The NZ Association of Optometrists is advising cyclists to wear biological motion reflectors on their knees and ankles, to improve night-time visibility in the wake of calls for increased safety for cyclists using our roads.

Biomotion reflector markings highlight the movement and form of a pedestrian or cyclist improving their conspicuity at night.

The optometrists point out that high visibility clothing is not effective at night and while wearing reflective vests can enhance night-time visibility the strategic placement of reflective markers on ankles and knees provides greatly improved safety for cyclists using roads at night.

NZAO is urging all cyclists using the roads at night to wear reflective vests and adopt the strategic placement of reflective bands on knees and ankles to indicate what is known as ‘biological motion.

The image of biological motion created by reflector markers on hips, knees, ankles, shoulders, elbows and wrists yields a pattern of motion that is immediately recognisable as a person rather than an object.

Research conducted by Dr Joanne Wood, Professor in the School of Optometry at QUT, and her colleagues has shown that recognition distances for pedestrians wearing biomotion markers at night is 3 times greater than for those wearing a reflective vest. Recognition distances for biomotion were 50 times greater than for dark clothing.

The effect of biomotion markers was even more pronounced in situations where there is glare (as from oncoming car headlights) or the driver is developing cataracts (which produce glare within the eye itself.

“Drivers have limited ability to recognise pedestrians and cyclists at night,” says Geoff Sargent, an optometrist with the NZAO. “this is why it is so important for road safety and recognition ability at night that people needing to wear corrective lenses have optimum correction and that cataracts are treated early in their development.”

For cyclists there is a significant effect on visibility distance and recognition distance when wearing knee and ankle markers. Cyclists wearing reflective vests plus knee and ankle markers can be seen and recognised as cyclists at the greatest distances. Reflective vests by themselves improve visibility only a small amount over dark clothing by itself but with reflective vest and knee and ankle markers visibility distance was 6 times longer.

Key points from the research that the NZAO believes should be more widely known are:
• drivers have limited ability to recognise pedestrians and cyclists at night
• cyclists overestimate their own visibility in fluorescent or reflective vests
• cyclists underestimate the benefits of adding reflective strips to their ankles and knees
• the visibility advantage of reflective joint strips is greatest when the cycle lights are mounted on the helmet

The Australian/New Zealand Standards Committee 'Committee SF-004-03: Light reflective protective clothing' recommended incorporated of the biomotion configuration into the standard for high visibility safety garments. Biomotion markers are also recommended for firefighters, road crews, and other personnel working in low visibility situations.

Background on Dr Wood
Dr Joanne Wood is a Professor in the School of Optometry at QUT, and has extensive research experience in a number of areas: vision and driving, vision, balance and falls, children’s functional vision and clinical psychophysics (including visual field testing and development of techniques for the early detection of ocular disease). Her research experience, spanning over a period of 25 years, includes a PhD in Visual Sciences at Aston University, UK, followed by a Post Doctoral Fellowship in Clinical Psychophysics at Oxford University. Dr Wood’s research has resulted in the publication of a total of 136 articles in national and international refereed journals, and presentation of 146 research papers at major international conferences, including the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, Transportation Research Board, Vision in Vehicles and the American Academy of Optometry.

In 1991, Dr Wood established a vision and driving research laboratory. This laboratory uses a unique experimental design, incorporating measurements of actual driving performance on a closed circuit driving course as well as on the open road, rather than making indirect judgments via crash rate data or driving simulators. Dr Wood’s research approach, by virtue of its multidisciplinary nature, has led to the development of an extensive research network overseas, involving a range of highly successful collaborations with academics across the world as well as from Australia, both within and outside of QUT. Over the last 10 years, a number of international scholars have visited QUT to participate in collaborative research projects because of the unique approach that Dr Wood has taken to the investigation of vision, ageing and driving:

Research Highlights
Vision and Driving
• Vision
• Balance and Falls
Children’s Vision
ATSI Eyecare


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