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It is difficult to detect pedestrians and cyclists moving in the dark. A reflector helps us be seen in traffic and helps drivers, for example, to see pedestrians in the dark. There are different types of reflectors that suit many styles.

Pedestrian visibility in the dark

According to the law, pedestrians should generally use a reflector in the dark.

A motorist driving with main beam lights can see a pedestrian walking on a dark road without a reflector at a distance of approximately 150 metres, depending on the pedestrian’s clothing and the lights of the vehicle. A pedestrian wearing a reflector or a reflector vest can be seen from a distance of more than 600 metres.

A driver driving with low beam headlights will detect a pedestrian approximately 50 metres away if the pedestrian is not wearing a reflector. A reflector, however, can be seen as far as 350 metres away.

It may be difficult to detect pedestrians and cyclists in the dark, even in agglomerations with street lights. Street and advertising lights and the shadows of trees and bushes will make detection more difficult. Rain, fog and frost-coated windows impair the driver’s visibility. The condition of the lights and the dirt on the windscreen also affect visibility. 

The visibility of a reflector. A driver driving with low beam headlights will detect a pedestrian approximately 50 metres away if the pedestrian is not wearing a reflector. A reflector, however, can be seen as far as 350 metres away.

Pedestrian accidents in the dark

One half of all pedestrian fatalities occurred in the dark or dusk. Traffic accident investigation panels estimated that a reflector might have rescued three pedestrians who did not wear a reflector and died in an accident in the dark (accidents between 2015 and 2019).

In agglomerations and outside agglomerations, only one in two pedestrians wears a reflector.

Attach your reflector correctly

There are freely hanging, detachable and fixed reflectors. The hanging reflector is at knee height so that it can swing freely. The driver will best detect a reflector attached to your side which is beside the road. The hanging reflector must be able to swing freely and be visible to the front, back and side.

The stretch or spring reflector is primarily attached to the wrist or forearm on your side which is beside the road. The reflector can also be attached to the lower leg if more than one reflector is used.

Different reflectors are not mutually exclusive but rather complementary. The more reflectors that are used, the better the driver can see a pedestrian in the dark or dusk. Reflectors attached on both sides also help the driver to perceive the width of the pedestrian on the road.

How to wear a reflector?

Reflectors for pet animals

The law usually obliges pedestrians to wear an appropriate reflector when moving in the dark, but a good quality reflective vest, strap, collar or harness also adds to the safety of a dog or other pet animal accompanying the pedestrian in dusk. A dog with dark hair can be extremely difficult to detect in the dark. A dog that stands out from the dark also helps others to see its owner.

When selecting a reflector, it should be ensured that the reflective surface is as large as possible and that the dog stands out from all directions. A reflective vest is often the safest option. A reflector attached to the lead, on the other hand, helps cyclists in particular to see the lead.

With a hunting dog, the use of a reflective vest, a reflective or lit collar or harness can prevent serious injury if the dog pounces on its prey on the road and in the middle of other traffic. A visible collar or clothing also helps hunters to distinguish a dog from a prey animal in conditions which are often demanding.

Appropriate reflector

Pedestrian reflectors are defined on the basis of the PPE Directive of the European Union. The visibility of the reflectors is verified by measuring, among other things, the total luminous intensity and surface area of the reflector according to EN 17353:2020 (formerly EN 13356). Commercially available reflectors must meet the standard requirements and be CE approved. This should be verified before making a purchase decision.

At least the following information is available in the sales package of a proper reflector:

  • CE marking
  • EN 17353:2020 (formerly EN 13356)
  • Information on the party carrying out the type-examination
  • Operating instructions
  • Manufacturer.

A reflective vest can also be used to improve visibility in dusk and in daylight. When acquiring reflective vests, make sure that they are also CE approved and have an EN marking. Reflector vests use two markings. EN 17353:2020 (formerly EN 1150) is the standard for non-professional vests. For professional vests, the standard marking is EN ISO 20471 (formerly EN 471)

If you make reflective accessories with reflective materials, fabrics, yarn etc., it is worth remembering that their reflectivity may not be equivalent to the appropriate reflector category. Home-made reflective decorations will complement your look during the dark period, but genuine reflectors should be worn alongside them. This ensures your sufficient visibility.

For example, for cost reasons, the Finnish Road Safety Council Liikenneturva primarily distributes reflectors only at its own events. In some cases we distribute reflectors, for instance if there are reflective screens associated with a major campaign or event, or if the theme of the event is otherwise related to reflectors.