High Visibility Protects Motorcyclists

Reflective Clothing, Light Helmets, and Headlights Reduce Crash Risks

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on April 08, 2004
From the WebMD Archives

April 8, 2004 -- Conspicuous motorcycle riders are more likely to arrive at their destination safely and without injury, a new study shows.

Researchers found wearing reflective clothing, a white or light colored helmet, and using headlights during the daytime can reduce serious injuries or death from motorcycle crashes by up to one-third.

The study shows that increasing the use of these measures may be an inexpensive way to promote motorcycle safety and prevent injury and death.

Visibility Improves Motorcycle Safety

In the study, researchers compared 463 motorcycle drivers involved in crashes that resulted in serious injury or death in New Zealand with 1,233 randomly selected drivers in the same region.

The study showed that about two-thirds of crash-related injuries occurred during the day in urban areas with speed limits less than 35 miles per hour, and 72% occurred in good weather.

After adjusting for other factors, such as driver's age, years of motorcycle riding experience, and alcohol use, researchers found simple things that increased the driver's visibility dramatically reduced crashes and injuries.


For example:

  • Drivers wearing fluorescent or reflective clothing had a 37% lower risk of crashing compared with other drivers.
  • Compared with using a black helmet, wearing a white helmet reduced the driver's risk by 24%.
  • Using daytime headlights reduced the risk of crashing by 27%.

However, the study showed wearing light-colored clothing wasn't enough to increase motorcycle driver visibility. There was no association between risk of crash-related injury and the frontal color of the driver's clothing or motorcycle.

Researchers say it's the first population-based study to look at the relationship between motorcycle driver visibility and crash-related injury.

"The study suggests that low physical conspicuity is a contributing factor in a significant proportion of road traffic crashes causing injury," write researcher Susan Wells, of the University of Auckland, and colleagues.

They say the findings indicate that enacting laws requiring daytime use of headlights and encouraging greater visibility among motorcycle drivers could improve motorcycle safety and reduce motorcycle crash-related injuries and death.

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SOURCE: Wells, S. British Medical Journal, April 10, 2004; vol 328: pp 857-860.

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