Biomotion Indicators

What are biomotion indicators and how do high visibility experts use them to maximise safety?

The human brain is designed to recognise motion, especially human motion. Upon seeing key points of the body, we can automatically and subconsciously recognise whether a moving object is human. These points are called biomotion indicators and they are important when thinking about visibility protection.

From the pattern created by biomotion points we quickly identify whether an object is animate or inanimate. More than that, we automatically register whether it is a human or an animal, male or female, as well as its mood and intentions.1

The most powerful technology utilises humans’ instinctive thought processes and is adapted to make the most of our natural reactions. High visibility clothing can do this. Using reflective material to highlight biomotion indicators, hi vis garments can enhance our natural ability to recognise human motion.

Studies have found that pedestrians wearing reflective material following the human form and placed on parts of the body with the most movement (such as forearms and lower legs) are far more likely to be seen by drivers than pedestrians wearing reflective material elsewhere.2

High visibility designers such as Leo Workwear can protect high vis users by harnessing the perceptual psychology of humans' visual sensitivity to patterns of motion. Creating garments which optimize the use of biomotion indicators will make wearers easier to identify. These minute gains in conspicuity can improve reaction times and save lives.

In an on-road study conducted by the Clemson University Department of Psychology, “response distances were maximized by the biomotion configuration despite the fact that the retroreflective straps were relatively thin and some were as high as shoulder height (thus receiving less illumination from low beam headlights)”.3

In this experiment “participants were driven along an open-road route at night and pressed a button whenever they recognized that a pedestrian was present. A test pedestrian wearing black clothing alone or with 302 cm² of retroreflective markings in one of four configurations either stood still or walked in place on an unilluminated sidewalk”.4

This study found that “conspicuity is maximal when pedestrians are both moving and wearing retroreflective treatments that highlight the form of their body”.5 However, even when the pedestrian was not moving, reaction times were still greatly improved when their biomotion points were highlighted.

The authors concluded that “these results confirm that basic perceptual phenomena observers' sensitivity to human form and motion can be harnessed to reduce an important problem of traffic safety”.6

“The biomotion phenomenon suggests that pedestrians can be made both visible and conspicuous if some of the retroreflective material is shifted from the torso to the limbs”.7

Taking these findings to the extreme, the idea has been floated that a ‘stickman’ style of garment could be introduced into the international high visibility standards. This would use reflective tape along the full length of the arms, torso and legs to make the human form as clear as possible to oncoming traffic. Whilst, this proposed change to the standards may not come to fruition, Leo Workwear have experimented with this style of design.

Leo Workwear strive to incorporate the latest technological innovations into our products. We carefully consider the placement of retroreflective material on every garment and many of our product lines utilise biomotion indicators to maximise safety.

As Hivizology experts we are committed to keeping workers safe. This is why we create comfortable, durable products which conform to international safety standards. Designing garments with our wearers’ biomotion points in mind is one extra way we ensure their safety.


Pollick F, Lestou V, Ryu J, 2002 “Estimating the efficiency of recognizing gender and affect from biological motion” Vision Research 42, 2345-2355.

2 Wood J M, Tyrrell R A, Carberry T, 2005 “Limitations in drivers' ability to recognise pedestrians at night'' Human Factors 47(3), 644-653.

3 Balk S A, Tyrrell R A, Brooks J O, Carpenter T L, 2008 “Highlighting human form and motion information enhances the conspicuity of pedestrians at night.” Perception 27, 1281.

4 Ibid., 1276.

5 Ibid., 1282.

6 Ibid., 1276.

7 Ibid., 1277.