Genealogy & Local History in Buffalo, NY

Flourescent Coat is a Symbol of Love

hi-vis coat

By Cynthia Van Ness, MLS

Really, I’d rather wear black. It is grown-up, understated, suitable for nearly every occasion and easily mixed & matched. Nevertheless, if you walk, jog or bike, I am here to tell you that you are utterly defenseless in black.

Today I wear a visually aggressive neon parka with reflective tape on front and back, plus matching gloves and earmuffs. Not the usual fashion choice for someone headed into AARP territory. Lime green, with good reason, was once among my least favorite colors.

Most places I go, I either walk or bike. Three times in three months, I nearly got killed by drivers who just didn’t see me. They didn’t even look. One driver turned right on red and I had to jump out of his path.

A week later, in spite of blinkers and reflectors all over my bike and helmet, a driver sideswiped me. Luckily, I was unhurt and a cop witnessed the entire incident. The driver earned a ticket for driving without a license and was presented with an insurance bill for my broken rear-view mirror. Once again, I could have been killed.

The third time was the Friday night before Christmas. I was walking home from work. By this time, I’d learned to wear blinkers, but this time, my rear blinker was off when I thought it was on. It was my turn to cross Lafayette at Elmwood. I was almost to the other curb when a driver, waiting to make a left onto Lafayette, spotted a break in oncoming rush-hour traffic and gunned it – right toward me. I screamed. Had there been snow on the ground, he would not have been able to stop in time. I could be dead or crippled. People going about their business on foot should not have to drape themselves in blinkers in order to live.

Unlike the media, which usually blame the vehicle for the collision – as though the driver was a helpless back-seat passenger – I am very clear about one thing: Cars don’t kill people; drivers kill people.

This string of near misses left me with the premonition that I would not live to enjoy an old age; a driver would prematurely send me to Forest Lawn. My husband once again heard from his shaken wife, “You almost got a call from the emergency room tonight.”

His response? Pick out a high-visibility coat as his gift. Not just any coat, an ANSI Class 2 Hi-Vis coat. For the uninitiated, that means a coat that meets American National Standards Institute requirements for apparel and headwear and “is capable of visually signaling the user’s presence.” You know, that blinding yellow/green worn by highway crews and first responders. So I shopped. Oh, how I shopped. I started a Pinterest board to keep track of the many options I found. I compared features, cuts, prices and aesthetics. Did you know that there are little reflective safety jackets for chickens so that they, too, can cross the road? There’s a punch line in there somewhere.

Suddenly, I had an ugly new favorite color and the feeling that, thanks to a carpenter husband who knows his safety gear, maybe I will survive after all. If a driver does run me down, at least I’ve deprived him of the “But officer, I just didn’t see her” excuse.

On Valentine’s Day, some people feel loved by gifts of chocolate, jewelry, pink hearts or red roses. For me, love is a retina-scalding fluorescent lime coat that just might save my life.

Updated 21 July 2014 Originally published in the Buffalo News, Feb. 22, 2014