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Can Drivers See You?

The crisp morning air and beautiful colors of fall can be a refreshing change as we move full steam ahead into the new school year. The changing of the season also brings the changing of daylight hours—the sun rises later in the morning and sets much earlier than we’ve grown accustomed to during Spring and Summer. With this change, walking to school may not be as simple as you might think.

Darker conditions create limited visibility, and as young pedestrians, kids may not realize the danger lurking within their own neighborhoods. What seemed a simple task, now requires hyper-vigilance and the proper gear to make sure drivers can see our little pedestrians and bicyclists clearly.

Our outreach team spends a lot of time explaining the importance of helmet use and crossing the street safely. And although we’re seeing more students practice what we teach, one safety habit that may get overlooked is wearing fluorescent colors during the day and reflective gear during those darker hours. 

“A 2004 meta-review of studies found drivers consistently recognized fluorescent colors faster, more consistently and from farther away than standard colors. Fluorescent material reflects non-visible ultraviolet light back in the visible spectrum making it look about 200 percent brighter in daylight than conventional colors” (Lindsey, 2022). Fluorescent colors on backpacks are not only convenient, but also a great way to ensure children always stand out without requiring too much preparation for parents. 

However, when the sun isn’t at its brightest, those fluorescents aren’t enough. They simply don’t work in the dark without ultraviolet light. Reflective gear is the only way to ensure children are visible to drivers when it’s dark outside. “A 2012 study by Dr. Tyrrell and other researchers found that drivers correctly identified a (cyclist) wearing a reflective vest 67 percent of the time; the rate jumped to 94 percent when ankle and knee reflectors were added” (Lindsey, 2022). If it works for cyclists, it works for pedestrians. Putting reflective gear where there is the most movement (ankles, knees, wrists) will draw the attention of drivers more than just a simple vest. 

Reflective fluorescent signal stripes on a school backpack.

With the proper gear, children are ready to practice street safety tactics with confidence– knowing they’ve done all they can to be visible. Just remember, even though their visibility has increased, it doesn’t mean drivers are paying attention—be sure to take extra care before venturing into those crosswalks.


Lindsey, J. (2022, August 24). The Science of Being Seen: A Guide to Safer Riding. Bicycling. Retrieved October 13, 2022, from