Friday, May 29, 2009

Can colorblind drivers see bicyclists?

Drivers often find it difficult to see bicyclists on the road, so extensive efforts have been made to increase bike-riders' conspicuity with hats, vests, jackets, and other high-visibility clothing. The researcher took a look at the color used for this apparel (often fluorescent green, pink, or yellow) to determine if it was visible to those with color deficient vision.

The results were neither statistically significant or overwhelming, but the author raises some interesting questions about the assumptions made by those producing, selling, and using high visibility garments. A photo example, using the Vischeck website to simulate color blindness, is telling:

The screenshot is from a website promoting high-visibility garments for kids. The "regular vision" screenshot is on the left. The "color-blind" simulation is on the right (I think).
I'm hoping this turned out well, because being colorblind, they look pretty much the same to me. I guess that's the point. According the author (whose word I'll take on this one),
"...most of it just doesn't work for people who are color blind. The
high-visibility green and orange hats become a light color that blends well with
the trees. The hot pink becomes grey."

I once led my state's work zone safety efforts for the Department of Transportation. It never dawned on me that I was seeing high-visibility vests very differently than those who were relying on them to stay safe in highway construction zones. With upwards of 5%+ drivers suffering from some color vision deficiency, it seems that colors most visible to the colorblind driver would be the most appropriate to use.

For the full report from Mr. Sullivan, click here.


  1. Great post. We sell High Visibility items I never thought about the difference between the enhanced colors seen from someone who is color blind. Definitely going to check out the full report. Thanks for the info!

  2. Thanks for your comment. I'm glad you found the post helpful, and I encourage you to check back in the future.

    What company do you work for?

  3. this is an interesting read. but being colorblind, all i want to say is, this web page hurst my eyes

  4. Help me understand what part of the page hurts your eyes. I've been looking to change the text/background combo (back to black-on-white instead of white-on-black). Is it that or some other part of the site?


  5. yes its the white on black. it appears to be flashing to me and messes with me head

  6. Thanks for the input. I'll use it in the re-design.

  7. no problamo captain

  8. I actually enjoyed reading through this posting. Many thanks.

    High Vis Jackets