Last week I was invited to attend a night-time run in the beautiful town of Ramelton, Co Donegal.
At 7pm I tried to gain access to the town hall to meet organiser Johnny Patterson but, because it was a sell-out, I couldn't get in.
More than 500 registered on the night and, as I watched the excitement build, I took a few pictures. When I looked at them later that night I couldn't make any of the images out. Given the fact that it was a night-time run the organisers had thought it prudent to give everybody a high-viz running vest. The reflective material played havoc with my camera lens and, as a result, all I saw was a myriad of white lights.
It reminded me of the importance of high-viz clothing material. Yet most people still refuse to wear high-viz material during hours of darkness. The excuse of "but I only use the footpaths" doesn't hold for three reasons. Almost certainly, at some point, you will leave the footpath, however briefly. Second, it is setting a bad example to children. Third, it assumes that nothing unexpected ever occurs, which as we know is not the real world.
Without reflective material – in fading light or in hours of darkness – you are invisible to others. You can be out there walking or running, with cars and lorries perhaps travelling up to 100kmh less than a few feet away, and they cannot see you.
As I journey home each evening there is a long stretch of footpath just outside my home town which measures perhaps a third of a mile. It is a mecca for people out exercising and is always busy until 10pm. Once I turn the corner to begin this stretch, I can immediately spot somebody wearing reflective material or a high-viz up to 600 metres in the distance.
Every night I also come across people – the majority – who refuse to wear reflective clothing to highlight their presence. As a result, they are invisible to me until I am within 30-40 metres of them. That means that with the same line of sight where I can see people at 600 metres, I cannot make out people who are at the next lamp post.
Not only is it foolish, it is selfish. It has no regard for the consequences that might occur, were any kind of a freak occurrence to happen, which happens somewhere every single day.
It has no regard for other road users or the people who might be in my car, the car behind me or anybody else in the vicinity. I have been driving for nearly 30 years and have seen or been made aware of hundreds of unexpected occurrences on our roads. An unexpected manoeuvre, a driver taking unwell, poor road conditions, to name but three. All can impact a driver's behaviour.
We have a duty of care not to be a hazard – if not to help ourselves – then surely to those around us. By slipping on a reflective vest or jacket you are as bright as an illuminated Christmas tree. Surely it's not too much to ask.
What a sight it was to see the hundreds of 5k'ers in Donegal last week take off at 7.30pm in February darkness. In the mix and all wearing high-viz. Well done Ramelton.
Gerry Duffy is a motivational speaker and endurance athlete. www.gerryduffyonline.com