New Federal Law Will Require Safety Apparel for Photographers on Roadways

27 10 2008


  • A new law requires anyone, including journalists, working on any federally funded highway to wear high visibility safety apparel while on the road.
  • Many state and local highways and roadways receive federal funds.
  • High visibility safety gear includes vests and jackets, which meet the “ANSI 107-2004 class II,” standard.
  • While there is no federal penalty or fine for non-adherence – breaking the rule could affect photographer’s liability if there is an accident.
  • Non-adherence may also increase the risk of being injured by a vehicle.
  • Photographers should be aware of states which may have local ordinances that could include fines or other penalties.

A new law goes into effect on November 24, 2008, which will require all workers on federal highways to wear high visibility safety apparel (23 C.F.R. § 634.3).

While the law does not specifically list members of the media, it includes “people on foot whose duties place them within the right-of-way of a Federal-aid highway, such as…responders to incidents within the highway right-of-way.”

The Department of Transportation has repeatedly stated that it considers the media to be included under this law. During the legislative comment period the DOT received requests to expand the definition to include media workers. The Federal Highway Administration responded that the term “responders to incidents” includes media representatives.

There is no specific federal fine for individuals who fail to comply. However, compliance is advisable for several other reasons. Hari Kalla of the Department of Transportation says that lack of compliance by agencies and states will directly affect funding of road projects. Because of this, states will likely enact follow-up legislation to encourage compliance. It is those rules may involve fines or other penalties for photographers who fail to comply with the rules.

Additionally, persons not wearing appropriate safety gear may bear increased liability if injured in an accident. By not wearing the gear, photographers who are injured in an accident may be considered partially at fault under the concept of contributory negligence (violated a law creates a legal presumption of negligence). If all other workers at a scene are wearing high-visibility clothing, a photographer who is not will not only be the least visible person at the scene and will therefore be at a greater risk of being hit by a vehicle but may also subject themselves to being barred from stopping on the roadway because of said non-compliance.

A “federal-aid highway” is defined as any road that has used federal funds in its construction and/or maintenance. State departments of transportation usually have maps available that indicate which highways are federal aid highways. According to Kalla, state and county roads are usually federally funded while local and rural roads usually are not.

In order for garments to qualify as high visibility safety apparel they must meet a standard known as “ANSI 107-2004 class II.” A Google search for “high-visibility garment” or “ANSI 107-2004” results in a wide variety of available outlets that include vests and jackets. Compliant garments should have a tag that reads “ANSI 107-2004 class II.”

While the use of reflective tape on regular clothing does not comply with the standard, compliant vests can typically be purchased for under $20.




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