Loud and Visible = Motorcycle Safety

You may have heard a motorcyclist state, “Loud pipes save lives.” This refers to motorcyclists’ lives for the most part. It is an argument for the loud exhaust systems on some cruisers like Harley-Davidsons. The theory is that other vehicles can hear you coming, so you are more visible. While this may not make your neighbors happy, it is true that being loud and visible is necessary for motorcycle safety. There are many ways to achieve safety when riding a motorcycle. Some are required by law, but others are dependent on the willingness of the rider. 

Are Loud Bikes Safer? 

It is difficult to confirm that loud bikes actually result in motorcycle safety, but it is plausible. Typically, the type of motorcycle that has a loud exhaust is more associated with casual joy riding rather than speed racing, so statistics may not confirm this beyond a reasonable doubt. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tends to agree with the sentiment that bikes should be audible. They’ve considered adding sound to electric bikes that are very quiet in order to alert pedestrians to their existence. This is a different type of safety geared toward people on foot rather than the people riding, but it is still a motorcycle safety issue in support of noise. Alerting pedestrians to the presence of motorcycles allows them to be safer. 

Florida Law Regarding Motorcycle Noise

Florida State Statute 316.293 does have some restrictions on vehicular noise. For motorcycles, the allowance changes based on speed. 

  • Under 35 mph must be at 78 decibels or less. 
  • Over 35 mph must be at 82 decibels or less. 

Florida doesn’t require motorcycle inspections. This means police will pull over a vehicle that they think may be unsafe. It is unclear at what decibel a police officer would determine safety to be an issue. 

Some people love to hear the rumble of their motorcycle and the revving of the engine. It is an annoyance to others. From a safety standpoint, anything that can get you noticed by other vehicles and pedestrians is a positive. 

Increasing Visibility for Motorcycle Safety

While noise can increase the chances that others will notice you riding your motorcycle, increasing visibility is potentially more important. This can be achieved in many ways. 

  • Bright bike and gear: Many people go for black gear and bikes in order to achieve a certain appearance, but you are also limiting your visibility. In order to stay safe on your bike, you need to be bright! Opt for bright colored motorcycles or bright colored helmets and gear, so people will have no choice but to see you. 
  • Reflective tape: Use reflective tape to increase your chance of being sighted especially if you are planning on driving at dusk when it is difficult to see in general. Reflective tape can be placed nearly anywhere on your bike. If you are against going bright, which is an understandable reality in the world of motorcycles, at least invest in some good reflective material. It increases visibility when you need it, but it’s fairly discrete during the day when visibility is adequate. 
  • Lights: Headlight options are a wonderful way to increase visibility on your bike. LED lights are bright and noticeable. They stand out from the standard headlights of four-wheeled vehicles. You can also get lights that modulate, or increase and decrease in brightness. This is just one more movement for other drivers to detect, and it increases the chance that you will attract their gaze. 
  • Flags: It is very common to see even the most tough-looking Harley rider have a flag sticking up from their bike. The flag waves in the wind, which is yet another way to divert the attention of other drivers to you. It’s also an inexpensive way to add a little fun to your customization. 

Florida Law Regarding Motorcycle Visibility

You may not have to wear a helmet in Florida (if you’re over 21 years of age and carrying medical coverage), but you do have to ride your motorcycle with the headlight turned on. This law also allows for headlights to modulate during the day. This is actually in accordance with federal law, as it is allowed in all 50 states. 

Basically, if you are riding day or night, your headlight must be on. This is solely an effort to increase visibility and limit the number of motorcycle crashes on the roads today. 

Motorcycle Safety Statistics

According to the NHTSA, motorcyclists are 28 times more likely to die in an accident than those in passenger vehicles. In 2017, over 5,000 people died in motorcycle crashes across the country. 

Twenty-eight percent of motorcycle deaths were among people under the influence of alcohol. Speeding is another common cause of motorcycle accidents, but a large number of accidents are caused because other drivers simply don’t see the motorcycle on the road. 

Why Don’t People See Motorcycles? 

The reason people don’t see motorcycles is simply part of the human condition. People aren’t looking for motorcycles. They are looking for other passenger vehicles and hopefully pedestrians. This is why campaigns urging people to look for motorcycles are so important. It helps people to remember to look out for them.

Obviously, motorcycles are not invisible, but they become invisible if drivers are not looking out for them. Getting people to notice motorcycles has become a two-way effort. The riders need to increase visibility. The drivers need to make a conscious effort to notice all vehicles on the roadway. 

Loud and Visible for Safety’s Sake

You don’t have to have a really loud bike or dress in fluorescent materials to safely ride a motorcycle, but these are things that can enhance safety. Riding a motorcycle is supposed to be fun, and if you want to do it in style, there are ways to make you more visible. You can pick and choose from the above safety recommendations to make things as safe as possible. You can also practice safe riding practices like staying out of blind spots and not following too closely. All of these things will lessen the chance of a potentially deadly or very harmful accident. 

Safety is everything when you are on a motorcycle, and the harsh truth is that you have to be the one to elevate your safety. This is because you cannot guarantee that people in passenger vehicles are going to do it. Defensive driving is brought to a new level when you are behind the handlebars of a motorcycle because the consequences of a crash can be so high. 

The Law Can Only Offer So Much Motorcycle Safety

While it is true that the State of Florida and the federal government have taken steps to increase motorcycle safety on the road, it is still up to you to take the steps necessary for protection. Know the law, but invest in equipment that will help you to stay safe out on the road. The excitement and thrill of the ride is exactly what makes it dangerous. You cannot have one without the other, but you can greatly reduce your chance of an accident. 

If you have questions about motorcycle safety laws, contact the offices of Kirshner, Groff and Diaz. We’ll help answer your questions and let you know if you have any concerns about the law or a potential lawsuit. 

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