Riding Safely at Night: Part 1
Long-term motorcycle riding is all about risk management and keeping safe year after year. While biking at night is not always possible to avoid, it all boils down to one thing: visibility. You must be visible to other motorists and other objects in the area, and you must be able to see what is going on around you. In this series, we will discuss the important things to keep in mind in order to stay safe when riding at night.
Obstacles to Motorcycle Riding at Night
When visibility is limited, riding becomes more dangerous. There are a few things to keep in mind when riding at night:
- Intoxicated Drivers: Aside from the obvious issues of low visibility, riding at night brings additional risks from drunk drivers. Other drivers are more likely to have had a few drinks before driving. Between the hours of 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. is the riskiest time for fatal motorcycle accidents to happen.
- Hidden Obstacles: Aside from other vehicles on the road, the road gets more dangerous as darkness approaches, owing to obstructions and debris in the road, potholes of all sizes, loose gravel, manholes, and many other things that become less visible as dusk approaches. They become more difficult to steer around, as well. While you may be able to see something on the road, moving in your lane of travel can put you in danger of colliding with something you did not notice hiding in the shadows.
- Animals: A deer in the headlights, as the phrase goes, is a realistic depiction of animals that freeze under pressure when looking into your headlights. Many prey and scavenging animals come out at night to avoid active predators during the day and/or because they are naturally nocturnal. Fortunately, most animal eyes will light up and alert you to their existence if you come across one late at night, just in time to avoid them on the road.
- Limited Visibility: Statistics show that a bigger proportion or motorcycle fatalities happen during the evening hours, regardless of the season and weather conditions. It seems clear that the lack of good visibility, whether it is the ability to see or be seen, is the likely cause of such accidents.
Make Yourself Visible
If poor visibility is a major factor in nighttime motorcycle accidents and fatalities, there are various things you can do to improve visibility and make evening motorcycle riding safer. Here are a few things you can do to improve nighttime riding safety:
High Visibility Clothing/Gear: Take advantage of the fact that your body is entirely visible to other drivers by wearing apparel that is easily seen in low light levels at night. Motorcyclists who wear high-visibility or fluorescent clothes are much less likely to be involved in a motorcycle accident.
Wearing vivid hues like neon yellow, green, orange, or even white will make you more visible than if you are dressed entirely in black. Most essentially, make sure your motorcycle clothing contains retro-reflective panels that shine when exposed to light from your headlights, as this will be the most noticeable part of you when riding.
You can buy a neon industrial safety vest, which is typically worn by construction workers, if you do not want to invest in hi-viz gear or you do not think you will need or wear it often. Choose a vest that is neon yellow or orange, and make sure it has reflective panels!
Reflective Tape & Decals: For extra visibility, make your motorcycle and/or your gear more visible by using retro-reflective tape that will attract other drivers’ attention. To spruce up your gear, you can buy a roll of tape in almost any color you can think of. Use your imagination while placing the tape; you can put it along the edge of your bike, on your forks, along with your panniers and saddlebags, or even on the lip of your wheel rims, if you want to go all out. For those who wish to add more graphics to their motorcycles, armor, or helmet, reflective decals are also available.
Lighting Options: When it comes to lighting on your motorcycle, there are plentiful options available.
- LED Lights: Although standard incandescent bulbs are bright, upgrading to an LED light bulb will improve your visibility to other drivers and help you to see farther and better at night. LED lights can produce greater light with less power from the motorcycle and without the additional heat that a higher wattage incandescent bulb produces. Just be sure your motorcycle flasher can compensate for the lower resistance caused by adding or replacing bulbs with LEDs. To compensate for the change in bulbs, you may need to replace your motorcycle’s flasher with an electronic flasher rather than a resistance flasher.
- Brake Light Flashers: By installing a flasher, you may replace or enhance your brake lighting by making your bulb flash multiple times when the brakes are used. Rather than having a continuous light, it will flash a few times to attract the attention of the motorist behind you before remaining illuminated.
- Headlight Modulator: By pulsing your low beam headlights, a headlight modulating kit can attract the attention of oncoming motorists. With so many new cars equipped with daytime running lights, your headlight can get hidden in a sea of them at any time of day. A pulsing light cuts through the multitude of lights, giving you the extra focus you need to stay safe. Although some drivers may find it distracting, it simply demonstrates that it is working — you are being noticed!
- Auxiliary Lights: Aside from replacing the OEM bulbs with LED replacements, there are a plethora of custom lighting solutions for increased visibility on your motorcycle. The style of lighting you should use is determined by the goal you are attempting to achieve. You can, for example, add lights to help you see farther down the road for safer night riding, to increase your eyesight in foggy circumstances, or to brighten up the areas in your peripheral vision. You can add single bulbs or numerous strips in multiple colors, and some kits even have a smartphone app that allows you to change the colors on the go.
- High Beams: High beams during nighttime riding can be beneficial to motorcyclists, but it is a hotly debated topic. Other automobiles turning left in front of a motorcycle is one of the top causes of accidents; therefore, flashing high beam lights can warn drivers of their action of cutting off a motorcycle.
With your creativity, you can aid your visibility beyond switching to LED lighting and adding retro-reflective gear and designs. Take a step back and examine your motorcycle. What would pique your interest the most? If it attracts your attention, it will also catch the attention of other drivers!
Riding at night can be a great time to ride if you are able to stay vigilant and take precautions. Keep an eye out for Part 2 in this series on staying safe at night. If you were involved in a motorcycle accident, you should contact the Law Offices of Kirshner, Groff, and Diaz to find out if you could be entitled to compensation. You will have the opportunity to speak about your case directly with a real attorney with a no-obligation consultation.