Let’s face it – motorcycle riders are extremely vulnerable when out on the road. As part of Motorcycle Awareness Month, we run through some of the ways to ensure that you are seen.
Unlike car drivers (otherwise known as ‘cagers’), motorcyclists do not have the benefit of being surrounded by a reinforced steel shell with all manner of passive safety features.
In fact, one-third of drivers involved in a daylight collision with a motorcyclist, claim not to have seen the rider before the crash. At night, this figure rises to over half of all drivers.
So – why are motorcyclists so often “invisible” to other road users?
The traditional view, contained in Rule 86 of the Highway Code, is that during daylight riding you should make yourself as visible as possible from the side as well as the front and rear.
The Code suggests wearing a light or brightly coloured helmet and fluorescent clothing or strips. It also recommends the use of dipped headlights, even in good daylight, may also make you more conspicuous. However – it all depends on what is going on in the background!
Even the Code states that you should be aware that other vehicle drivers may still not have seen you, or judged your distance or speed correctly, especially at junctions.
Rule 87 of the Code recommends wearing reflective clothing or strips to improve visibility riding in the dark. The theory being that these reflect light from the headlamps of other vehicles, making you conspicuous from a longer distance.
Whilst this is all very worthy, the reality is that the head-on view of a rider and motorcycle is relatively small, presenting a small image from which to assess speed.
If the situation is busy, it can be difficult to distinguish a motorcycle and rider against a background. This is known as “motion camouflage”.
It comes about because motion is difficult to perceive when it is directly in the line of sight. The motorcycle can appear stationary relative to the background. The motorcycle actually increases in size as it nears, but the change goes unnoticed.
There comes a point when the motorcycle grows in size to such an extent that the motion camouflage is broken, the so-called “looming effect”.
It is sobering to think that, when stationary at a junction, waiting to emerge, research suggests that drivers spend less than 0.5 seconds searching for hazards!
The latest technology has seen huge improvements in conspicuity for motorcyclists. This covers a number of areas, such as clothing, helmet paint and bulb technology.
Despite all of this, motorcyclists make up only 1% of total traffic in the UK but still account for 20-25% of UK road casualties.
If you are a motorcyclist, how can you best avoid becoming one of these statistics?
There is no easy one-size-fits-all answer. However, you can certainly do a few things to reduce your chances of not being seen.
Brightly coloured or fluorescent clothing with reflective panels will help to improve conspicuity.
This includes the motorcycle helmet. White tends to be the default choice for conspicuity, but other bright colours are available.
Daylight running lights are now fairly commonplace on newer motorcycles and the use of LED bulbs is increasing.
Use of your dipped headlight is advisable if you do not have daylight running lights fitted.
Whilst this may not of itself appear to provide improved conspicuity, the additional skills in hazard perception and machine control will assist your ability to anticipate and avoid the actions of other road users, should they not see you.
In particular, make yourself ‘big’ by road positioning and movement.
Riding a motorcycle requires a high level of attention, awareness of likely hazards and good observational skills.
Your alertness is reduced if you ride at times when you would normally be asleep or if you have not had a normal amount of sleep. It also varies with the time of the day:
Irregular work and shift patterns also increase the risk of fatigue.
If you feel drowsy, if your eyelids are heavy and the rear lights ahead start to blur, you must do something to stop yourself from falling asleep. Take a rest as soon as it is safe to do so.
Generally, try and avoid riding during periods when your biological rhythms are working against you.
Most of all, ride safe and don’t be a statistic!
If you or a loved one have been involved in a motorcycle accident and would like to gain further legal support, please contact our Personal Injury Department – our team of expert solicitors will be able to assist and can offer free initial advice. Call on 01708 229444 or email us using our contact form.This article was written by Stephen Green, Personal Injury Partner at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of May 2018.