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How to Make Yourself More Visible While on Your Motorcycle

“Be Safe – Be Seen”

Motorists Often Fail To See A Motorcyclist: Your absolute #1 concern while riding your motorcycle should be maximizing your visibility to cars on the road. According to the iconic Hurt Report, released by the US Department of Transportation in 1981, “the most common motorcycle accident involves another vehicle causing the collision … because the car driver did not see the motorcycle”. “Arrive Alive!”

Motorcycles are small and accelerate much more quickly than drivers perceive. While most automobile drivers are used to driving defensively, this usually means they are looking out for other cars, trucks, traffic and roadwork – not motorcycles! As such, emergency responders commonly hear phrases like “I never even saw the motorcycle!” or “He just appeared out of nowhere!” Your bike is obviously much smaller than a car – and as a result, motorcyclists are much more likely to be killed or seriously injured in an accident than a driver or passenger in a car. Unfortunately, you can’t control how observant drivers around you choose to be. However, take several steps to ensure that you more likely to be seen on the road.

Below are some great tips for staying making sure you're seen on the road:

1. Wear Brightly Colored/Reflective Clothing:

Your visibility matters just as much (if not more) than your bike’s. Fluorescent colored shirts like yellow, orange and green work well to alert drivers to your presence. Yes, bikers like to wear black; and, when riding alone, you can always opt for a high-visibility safety vest, worn over your normal clothes or jacket. The goal is to: “Arrive alive!”

2. Get Reflective Gear:

If black is your thing, we get it. Luckily, there are plenty of options for maintaining your look. Consider investing in gear that has been treated with reflective materials, like a reflective helmet and jacket. Apply reflective strips or decals to your helmet. You can even find reflective gloves and boots. All of these options will also increase your visibility after dark.

3. Make Your Bike Bright:

Outfit your bike with some reflective tape or decals – we’d suggest large pieces on the front of your forks, on your windscreen, and on the rear and sides of your saddle bags and your tour pack and saddle bags (if you have them). You can even add reflective tape to your wheel rims, which produces a pretty cool visual effect on top of making you much more likely to be seen.

If you haven’t already purchased a motorcycle, consider choosing a bright color over black. I know of a certain motorcycle with metallic red paint that “pops” in the sun. I have said more than once such a bike is the perfect color! The red simply stands out! During this writing, I saw a friend’s new bike in the Harley orange; and not only is it attractive, I am certain is more visible than if the bike were all black. Dark-colored motorcycles tend to make you even harder to spot. This is obviously not an option if you already own a bike, but if you are in the position to choose, remember that being seen even a half-second early can mean the difference between life and death during dangerous situations on the road.

4. Make Sure Your Headlights & Taillights Work – Day & Night

Probably the easiest tip here - turn on your high beams during the day. Will this annoy some drivers? Possibly. Will it also make you much more visible to both oncoming traffic and in the rearview mirror of cars in front of you? Yes, and that’s what matters.

You can also outfit your bike with additional/auxiliary lighting, like fog, marker lights or accent lighting. You could even install a modulator for your headlights or brake lamps. A modulator will cause your lights to strobe when your brakes are being used. This is a great tool to use, especially in busy traffic - but be sure to check that your modulator complies with state and federal laws. With standard equipment, flash your brake light when slowing down or stopping.

5. Ride Where You Are Most Visible:

Within your lane, they teach us “the lane” has three places: 1) The left side of the lane; 2) The center of the lane; and 3) The right side of the lane. Different traffic conditions may suggest one over the other – to making sure you are seen by other motorists.

Second, stay out of blind spots: If you aren’t conscious about your position on the road in relation to the cars around you, you are leaving your safety up to chance. Relying on drivers to be responsible and alert is doing nothing but setting you up for an accident. Of course, it isn’t always possible to avoid being in someone’s blind spot; and, you should avoid riding behind large trucks and semis, also making sure you pass quickly when you need to. Then position yourself in a place where you are clearly visible to the cars around you.

6. Other Considerations:

If you are riding solo, remember you are not as visible if you were riding with another biker, or with other bikes in a column. Thus, it is much smarter to wear a florescent safety vest to be seen. If you are riding in a group ride, certain motorcycle chapters require the persons riding in the front and the back to wear their safety vest for the same reasons – to increase visibility. If you are riding at night, most safety vests have the reflective taping or logos to increase your chances of being seen.

Also, be mindful of the weather. Most bikers inevitably find themselves in not the best weather conditions (night or day); and, if you are in the situations where you cannot safely pull off the road to wait for better weather, at least throw on a rain suit or a safety vest having the best reflective gear. We have all been in a car when a heavy summer rain falls; and even with the best windshield wipers on, it is sometimes hard to see the car in front of you, or beside you. Thus, if you see rain on the horizon, think about an alternative route, or pulling over to let the storm pass; and if you cannot do either, make sure to pull out the safety vest until you can ride to a safe place, to get out of harm’s way.

7. Motorcycle Safety:

Regardless of experience, visit our website’s “Motorcycle Safety” page. Here you will find the links to the Florida Motorcycle Handbook, Motorcycle Training, Links to Safety Courses, Florida DMV Motorcycle Practice Tests, the Motorcycle Safety Guide and links to other easy to read brochures to make you a better rider.

Share this article with friends to encourage others to stay as visible as possible while out on the road. 'Arrive Alive!'

Ride Safe, Brad

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