Maximize Visibility

be-seen2“I never saw the rider” is one of the most common things other road users say after they’ve struck a motorcyclist, an unfortunate reflection on how easy it is for riders to slip under the radar. Here are tips on how to stay visible while you ride.

The first and most obvious way to avoid being hit is to stay out of the blind spots of other vehicles and give yourself enough room to react. Ways to do so are:

  • Making sure you can see the drivers of the cars around you; if you can see them (through eye contact or in their mirrors), chances are you’re in their line of sight… but never assume anything.
  • Creating a safety buffer around you, this means leaving enough distance ahead of you and giving yourself space to manoeuvre away from trouble.
  • Avoid lingering in the blind spots created by the A-pillars and C-pillars of cars; those are the front 3/4 and rear 3/4 angle views out of the driver seat. Passing can be a dangerous manoeuvre, so be especially aware when overtaking a car or another rider.
  • If you’re riding with a group, be sure to leave a safe distance around you, and ride in a staggered formation for maximum visibility.
  • Choose your lane position carefully, never compromise.

lane-position-720x340Choose your Ride
Black motorcycles look cool, but they tend to visually blend into their surroundings. Riding a more brightly coloured bike- whether it’s white, yellow, or even red- will increase the odds that you’ll register in the peripheral vision of other road users.

Wear Bright or Reflective Gear
The rider is a big part of a motorcycle’s visual presence, and wearing bright or reflective safety gear is an easy way to stand out.

Choose light coloured gear, and try to find jackets and pants that are treated with a reflective finish. Some apparel now comes with a reflective finish that’s only visible at night, adding an element of style to safety gear.

Use Reflective Tape
If you don’t have reflective gear or want to take a more proactive approach to being seen, buy reflective tape and apply it to anything from your helmet to your saddlebags. This may seem a bit extreme to some, but it is an option in low visibility situations.

Use your Hands
Remember those hand signals you learned for bicycle riding? Extending or flexing your arm is an effective way to raise your visual profile in addition to using your turn signals. Just be sure you’re able to effectively control your bike while doing so, and never take your hands off the handlebar grips when turning.

Tap your Brakes
If you’re being followed too closely by a car and aren’t able to maintain an effective safety cushion around you, there’s nothing wrong with lightly tapping your brakes to activate the brake lights. If that doesn’t help the tailgater lay-off, do your best to safely exit the lane and find a safer spot to ride.

be-seen3Use your High Beams when it’s Safe
Motorcycles are setup to run their headlights at all times, but if you’re not in danger of blinding oncoming traffic, flipping your high beams on will add an extra level of visibility. If you have high-intensity discharge bulbs or are aimed squarely at traffic during night-time riding, avoid using your high beams unnecessarily.

Use your Horn/Hooter if Necessary
There’s a fine line between noise pollution and self-preservation, but if all else fails you might want to make your presence known by blowing your horn. Though loud car stereos or other aural distractions can prevent motorists from noticing the sound of your horn, the split second decision to press the horn button can make the difference between becoming a victim and avoiding an accident.

Hein Jonker

Founder of the Motorcycle Safety Institute of South Africa Editor in Chief of Bike Talk South Africa Chief Instructor of Bike Talk Motorcycle Rider Academy Motorcycle Safety & Skills Expert for Arrive Alive South Africa

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