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RIDER EDUCATION ARTICLE: Visibility, Visibility, Visibility
Submitted by: Joe and Gracie Mazza
Assistant International Director Rider Education
Motorist Awareness Director

In a recent discussion with my friend Larry Penepent, Region H Motorist Awareness Coordinator, we decided that when it comes to statistics relating to motorcycle accidents, you can get contradictory reporting depending on your source. In the past I have relied on The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

One recent report by the NHTSA stated that when motorcycles are involved in accidents with another vehicle, 77% are struck in the front and only 7% are struck from behind and approximately 47% of these accidents are fatal to the motorcyclist. More than half of these fatal accidents are caused by the other vehicle turning left, and 75% of all accidents involving another vehicle are caused by the driver's failure to see the motorcycle before the collision.

However, a recent "Road Bike Accident Report" out of Washington State revealed the opposite about where we get hit. It stated that most hits are from the back or side. You may ask what difference does it make where we motorcyclists get hit and you would be right. Let's do everything WE can do to not get hit at all. One of the answers of course lies in our visibility. According to a motorcyclist who gave his name as Richard, when responding to the NHTSA report, the best way to increase your visibility is to wear a bright colored helmet, a bright color or highlighted jacket, a bright colored motorcycle and not to weave in and out of traffic. All of the above increases your visibility footprint. I would like to add riding with a modulating headlight during the daylight and, the use of bright, legal led lights at night also help.

Low Profile-sport bikes are designed for low profile bike and rider positions (tuck) by eliminating wind drag. This decreases the visible mass of both the bike and rider. If you couple that with aggressive (lane changing) driving, you create more risk, as your visibility footprint decreases for other drivers. The way risk can be lowered for sport bikes is by being less aggressive and by defensive driving.

Cruisers and Choppers--- since 77% of accidents are struck from the front, according to the NHTSA, the nice bright paint jobs on choppers and Harleys are rarely visible to the offending car driver. Now, take into that 85% of CC riders wear brown or black and dark colored helmets, or no helmets, and you have a significantly reduced visible footprint to the potential offending drivers to your front. If both the rider and cycle blend into their environment, by having earth tone colors, you have a potential issue.

Richard believes that the above mentioned reasons define why motorcycle accidents and deaths are significantly reduced in Europe. They should be statistically much higher based on the population per square mile, when compared to the U.S. The vast majority of full size cycles in Europe are touring bikes where riders sit up higher showing more visible area. Touring bikes are more agile than cruisers and choppers, helping avoid accidents. Riders tend to wear brighter gear in Europe and 95% of riders wear helmets. (Mandatory in all European Union Countries.)

Interestingly, when my wife and I were cut off and went down in Dallas, Texas in 2004, we were wearing bright colored clothing and had our modulating headlights on. Of course, the motorist told the police that he didn't see us. Sometimes even after doing all you can do to be seen, the motoring public will look, and though you are there, won't see you. So folks, do all you can do and hope for the best. We in Motorist awareness are working hard to alert everyone we can to the fact that we are there, so please look for us so we can all share the road safely.

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