Blauer - Tactical Clothing & Equipment

What You Need to Know About the New ANSI Standard for Public Safety

Blauer ANSI Traffic Vest Blog

Google “police officer struck by injuries” and you will find pages of near death stories of police officers involved in vehicle accidents. Notwithstanding the handful or criminals actually trying to hit police officers, most drivers claim to have not seen them until it was too late. Have you had a close call or been injured by a motorist in the last few years?

The pace of life in America is dizzying. City streets buzz all hours of the day and night and the suburbs have become like cities during commuting hours. Cars go too fast and drivers are more careless than ever. Driving drunk and texting are the new normal. Night driving is more common and older drivers with impaired night vision stay on the road longer. Accidents have become so bad that in the interest of public safety NHTSA would like to ban driving altogether. Driverless cars are not some crazy idea anymore.

Until AI replaces drivers, what is the best strategy for staying alive on the roads? ANSI 107:2015 is the newest High Visibility standard, which has been endorsed by NHTSA, its guidelines are intended to keep law officers safe on the roadways. Published last year it was rewritten with specific guidance for law enforcement and public safety personnel. There are two broad groups of Type P (for Public Safety) garments; Classes 2 and 3 cover safety vests and polo shirts to jackets and full-length raincoats.

Significant changes to latest standard make it mandatory for all Type P outerwear and rainwear to be Class 3 rated. The new minimum 310 square inches of retroreflective material needed for all Hi-Vis jackets and rainwear make them brighter and safer at night which is the greatest risk for LE.

At the same time the required background Vis fabric needed for daytime safety has been reduced in the new standard to allow better weapon and equipment access and color blocked designs. Color blocking uses areas of black or other non-fluorescent bright colors to identify public safety personnel in the roadway and to increase daytime contrast and therefore conspicuity.

The human eye detects contrast better than it sees color. We have varying abilities to see color, hence the term "colorblind" for some people. The stark contrast of black and Hi Vis colors side by side help us see them further away. Well-positioned areas of black also keep the mostly Hi Vis garments cleaner looking over weeks and months of use.

If your department issues a safety vest you are still covered for ANSI. A Class 2 safety vest is still NHTSA’s minimum wear requirement for LE. ANSI 207 vests have been discontinued and must be replaced with the Type P or R 107 vests when they wear out.

It remains the officer’s discretion and/or department policy as to when and where Hi Vis clothing must be worn. For example during routine traffic stops (unfortunately when most of the struck bys occur) vests need not be worn as it has been determined that wearing a vest might be more dangerous, if a situation turns tactical, than is the danger of oncoming traffic.

Road workers have the benefit of working behind barriers. They also use flaggers to slow traffic approaching a construction zone. LE only has the lights on the cruiser to alert drivers. In daytime they are not so effective, and as studies have shown, at night cruiser lights can actually attract drivers. In some ways it would be easier for departments to be told you must wear your vest at all times if out of the car while in traffic, as fire personnel must do when they are in the roadway. Until that happens, be defensive and realize that conditions have changed making roadway safety another hazard of the job you do.

Stephen Blauer is Vice President at Blauer Manufacturing Co., Inc. and is a recognized leader and expert in the field of public safety clothing design.  He sits on several standards committees related to garment performance and safety, and has led the innovative development of performance uniforms, apparel, footwear, and accessories which has made Blauer the standard for public safety professionals nationwide.

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