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Police ask pedestrians to wear hi-vis following spate of road deaths in Scotland

The comments from Police Scotland after six pedestrians died in collisions in 13 days have prompted accusations of victim blaming

Police Scotland is at the centre of a "victim blaming" row after a chief inspector urged pedestrians to wear "reflective or fluorescent" clothing after six people walking were killed after being hit by other road users in just 13 days.

Ch Insp Lorraine Napier argued that in light of the incidents, officers should encourage all road users to keep safe, first asking pedestrians to stay visible. And in response to a request for comment from, Police Scotland confirmed the force had "nothing to add".

"Pedestrians are considered vulnerable road users and, in winter, particularly when it is dark, pedestrians should wear reflective or fluorescent clothing," she said.

"I would also urge pedestrians to be mindful of their surroundings and to ensure they are not putting themselves at risk."

The comments also asked motorists to "drive with particular care in areas where people may be on foot or crossing roads and ensure the correct vehicle lights are in operation".

Ch Insp Napier insisted Police Scotland is "committed to improving the safety of all road users and particularly vulnerable road users across the country" but received accusations of victim blaming for her assertion that pedestrians should help themselves by wearing hi-vis clothing.

 In a tragic timeline of events, 42-year-old John Stanley Lewis was killed when hit by a driver on the A9 in Perth on 25 January, the first of a series of six pedestrian fatalities between then and February 6.

An 89-year-old man died in hospital four days after a collision with a cyclist in Linlithgow on 29 January, while a 75-year-old man was killed after being hit by a driver in Hamilton on February 1.

The next day, student Chinenye Vera Okonkwo, 33, died after a two-car crash in Glasgow city centre, with a 79-year-old man and a 64-year-old man killed in Edinburgh on February 4 and Glasgow on February 6 after being hit by the driver of a bus and a car driver respectively.

Ch Insp Napier, who is also a commander of road policing, confirmed that specialist officers were investigating each of the six incidents to fully establish the circumstances.

On average, 37 pedestrians died annually on Scotland's roads between 2017 and 2021, according to Transport Scotland statistics, meaning 16 per cent of the yearly average was suffered in just under two weeks.

Concerns about the police asking pedestrians to protect themselves with hi-vis clothing mirrors the treatment cyclists often receive — with requests for riders to make sure they have lights, bright clothing and helmets a regular feature of roads policing, especially on social media.

In 2020, the Metropolitan Police denied that an operation handing out hi-vis vests to bicycle riders in the English capital constituted victim blaming. Meanwhile in November 2021 Northern Ireland's road policing unit said that "nobody wants to play spot the cyclist" and recommended hi-vis clothing, prompting the following reply including one of their Surrey counterparts' tweets.

 In May of last year, broadcaster and pedalling presenter Jeremy Vine shared a video of a police officer riding alongside him in full hi-vis being close passed by a lorry driver.

The clip prompted Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Cox, head of crime at Lincolnshire Police and national lead for fatal collision investigations, to remind motorists that they have "a responsibility to protect vulnerable road users".

And wearing hi-vis did little to protect the reader who submitted yesterday's Near Miss of the Day video, in which an oncoming driver veered across the centre of the road, only pulling away from the rider at the last second — despite the cyclist having lights, reflectors and fluorescent clothing.

"Lights, reflectors and hi-vis — if they ain't looking they won't see you," our reader concluded.

It is not the first time Police Scotland's communication to vulnerable road users has been questioned either. Just a few months ago the force was accused of victim blaming after advising cyclists – but not drivers – to "pay attention to road signs, markings and particularly red lights".

Dan joined in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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