Reflective Safety Vests for Drivers

The yellow ‘hivis’ safety vests now required in all French vehicles have become something of a French fashion item.

Since last October, it is now mandatory in France to carry a gilet jaune in the vehicle. Only one vest need be carried, provided it is accessible from within the car. Indeed, the vest need not even by yellow, as an orange reflective vest is also accepted. 1313 The same law also made obligatory the carrying of a reflective triangle in the car. Over the summer, the French government mounted a substantial publicity campaign concerning the vest, using none other than fashion juggernaut Karl Lagerfeld to promote the vest, on prominently displayed billboards all over France. It seems to have done the trick, for everyone now seems to want to show they own one, either by actually wearing them in the car, or hung over the back rest of the car. Cyclists, bikers, and even walkers also seem to have got in on the act, to the extent that travelling around some parts of Paris at night it sometimes feels as if has become the everyday leisurewear. Catch sight of a crowd of protesting demonstrators and they all seem to be wearing them! Jeremy Clarkson, the presenter on the BBC motoring programme Top Gear (hardly a fashion icon himself) also decided to get in on the act when, during a recent programme, he drove through France wearing the vest. Some explanation for the sudden craze may be given by the fact that during October the police seemed to have great joy in stopping motorists and asking to see if they were carrying the vest and the triangle. Dozens of unsuspecting drivers from the UK arriving in France were also stopped, and told to produce their vest, which many were unable to do. The fine for not carrying a vest is €135, but the evidence suggests that most drivers have been getting away with warnings rather than a fine. The only question that remains is just how police officers are going to keep their disguise if everyone is wearing their trademark yellow vests!

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