When car drivers hit a motorcyclist, they often complain they did not see them. In 2019, the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) looked at ways to reduce the number of motorcyclists killed or injured on US roads. As part of their work, they investigated why more motorcyclists do not use clothes that increase visibility.
The results of the study are not surprising. They found two primary reasons bikers chose not to use high-visibility clothing:
- It does not go with the image: Having the appropriate look is essential to many riders. Would you have thought Evil Knievel was cool if he wore a yellow safety vest and complied with health and safety regulations? Would rough-and-tumble bikers be so intimidating if they wore luminous orange helmets and covered their bikes in reflective tape? Motorcycling culture consists of various subgroups, each with their own defined styles. Fluorescent clothing rarely fits in well.
- It may not make much difference: You could be wearing flashing neon green head to toe, but a driver still won’t see you if they are too busy fiddling with their cellphone to look at the road. Most of the bikers interviewed felt too many drivers are distracted. They also expressed uncertainty about whether the increase in visibility was worth the cost of replacing the riding gear they already owned.
Many motorcyclists will feel the NHTSA should concentrate on teaching drivers to avoid hitting motorcyclists, rather than placing the responsibility on bikes to avoid being hit. Motorcyclists are among the most vulnerable road users and likely to suffer serious injuries when a negligent driver hits them. Thankfully, the law recognizes that when a driver is negligent, they should take responsibility for the crash.