The majority of motorcycle riders said they do not regularly wear high-visibility or reflective apparel when riding and 88.9% cited the weather as the top factor when choosing to wear, according to a new report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
While all riders indicated that conspicuity was a concern while riding a motorcycle, the findings indicate a complacence on the part of motorcyclists to dress in high-visibility gear.
Only half the men who ride cruiser, touring, and sport motorcycles rated increased visibility as “important” or “very important.”
When asked to rank 21 possible factors that might be considered when purchasing motorcycle gear, riders cited comfort first followed by durability and crash protection. Increased visibility ranked sixth.
Women riders appear to be more concerned about safety apparel than men. A greater proportion of the female riders (12%) than male cruiser riders (7%), male sport motorcycle riders (5%), and male touring riders (3%) indicated increased visibility as one of their top three purchasing factors.
The most common reason riders gave as to why they do not wear high-visibility apparel was that it was not the right style. A few people also associated high-visibility gear with novice riders.
However, every year, some 5,000 motorcycle riders die in crashes. Many of these fatalities are attributed to a motor vehicle driver not seeing the motorcyclist — making rider visibility paramount to safety.
But according to NHTSA's report, most of the time, riders felt that crashes were due to car drivers' lack of attention to the roadway rather than the driver's inability to see the biker. Almost all riders thought that drivers are frequently distracted due to cell phone use.
Opinions on the effectiveness of high-visibility gear varied, although most riders felt wearing high-visibility gear and apparel would help improve safety somewhat. Other riders felt that high-visibility apparel would be too small from the perspective of the drivers to make much difference in terms of safety.
Most riders said they personally would not wear high-visibility gear or apparel that featured bright yellow and green colors. Conversely, almost all said they would wear retro-reflective elements that could be added to gear or apparel.
Those who do wear high-visibility gear said they do so because of their personal experiences being in a crash or knowing friends who have died or been injured in a collision. These riders believe high-visibility apparel improves their safety.
To obtain the data for the report, NHTSA conducted 18 focus groups with 137 motorcycle riders in California, Maryland, Michigan, and Texas. In most groups, only one or two participants said they regularly wear high-visibility gear.