A recent focus group of motorcycle riders was conducted by an outside consulting firm under the direction of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, (NHTSA), asking them their attitudes about wearing high-visibility riding gear. The findings were meant to ultimately encourage motorcycle riders to consider using brightly colored clothing or apparel accessories to increase their visibility and reduce the risk of being hit while on the road.
It turns out those who ride – well, at least the cross section of those participating in the focus group – had strong reasons for either choosing to wear some type of reflective or “neon colored” apparel or not. Riders in the focus group had very personal reasons for their decisions in both categories.
As personal injury attorneys who represent motorcyclists victimized by a crash with another vehicle, the Goldberg Noone Law Firm advocates for rider safety. We've seen the devastation caused by being involved in a serious motorcycle crash. We believe bikers should wear a DOT-approved helmet, as well as proper reflective clothing of some type.
The study consisted of 18 different focus groups and were held in Los Angeles, Austin, Ann Arbor and Rockville, Maryland. The locations were selected because of the high proportion of motorcyclists based on vehicle registrations, and motorcycle crash statistics. Other factors included climate, general traffic conditions, helmet laws and lane-splitting laws. Participants included men and women, both riders and passengers, who ride a minimum of once per week. They also included different types of bikes, like cruisers, touring bikes, sport bikes and scooters.
Here are some of the key findings of the focus groups and some of the questions they were asked to respond to:
Why do you choose to wear – or not wear – high-visibility gear?
Not surprisingly, riders who did wear fluorescent or neon colored clothes said increased visibility was the main reason. They believe that drivers really do not watch out for motorcyclists, and many had either a personal experience in a near-crash or knew someone who did. They felt it improved their overall safety while riding.
Would you consider wearing high-visibility gear?
The participants said they would consider wearing reflective or fluorescent clothing, but selectively, like when riding at night or in bad weather, travelling a long distance, or on a congested highway.
Why do you choose not to wear high-visibility gear?
Most riders and passengers in the focus group indicated they do not wear high-visibility gear, but they offered a variety of reasons for that decision. Many said they don't like the bright yellow color but may consider wearing fluorescent gear in a different color. Some other reasons included:
- Does not fit with the “look” of their specific style of bike
- Don't think it would make any difference
- Already had lighting effects on their bikes for increased visibility
- Windshields and fairings would block a driver's view of the bright colors
- They're experienced riders and did not need any bright colored gear to keep them safe
Who is more inclined to wear high-visibility gear?
In each of the focus groups, the group of riders most likely to wear fluorescent or reflective clothing were female and scooter riders.
What could be done to increase the likelihood of you wearing high-visibility gear?
- More attractive and appealing designs
- Better marketing to show how they help reduce the risk of a crash
- Financial incentives, possibly discounted insurance premiums
From a rider's perspective, how could high-visibility gear be improved?
- More choices of colors
- Incorporate reflective elements into brand logos that they already wear
- More comfortable fit
The wearing of reflective or fluorescent safety gear is another personal choice, much like whether to wear a helmet or not. In some biker cultures, the clothes a rider wears are directly connected to the type of bike they own. In essence, a rider of a sport bike is more apt to wear high-visibility gear than would a Harley owner, especially if they belong to the “one percenters” or “outlaw” biker lifestyle. Multiple focus group participants said they only wear black clothes when riding, because it matches their bike. Many also said that high-visibility gear just wasn't “cool” enough, so they do not wear any.
Here are some other notable findings from the study:
- The popularity of full-faced helmets with shields is increasing
- The majority of cruiser riders choosing to wear more protective gear were over aged 55
- Leather jackets were the most popular clothing choice of cruiser riders
- 78% of cruiser riders almost always wore denim pants
- Just 4% of cruiser riders said they usually wore high-visibility gear
- Regarding making motorcycles more visible and conspicuous to drivers, cruiser riders said loud pipes and bright lights were more important than high-visibility gear
- Cruiser riders said that while they thought high-visibility gear would potentially save lives, they personally would not wear them “because they look stupid.”
Another interesting aspect of the focus groups involved riders of sport bikes, generally considered to be high-horsepower Japanese performance motorcycles. Riders of these types of bikes admitted that they often drive faster than riders of cruiser style bikes, so they acknowledged the need for more protective gear. They also said the longer the ride, the more apt they were to wear more protective or visible gear.
“Riders are constantly struggling to find ways to be more conspicuous to car drivers,” says motorcycle crash attorney Mike Noone. “They may make their exhaust louder, add more lights to their bike, add a louder horn or ride with their high beam on – it only makes sense for a biker to do what he or she can to try to help the drivers see them.”
Riding a motorcycle is a risk, whether you wear high-visibility gear or not. The Goldberg Noone Law Firm encourages you to ride safe, ride smart and enjoy the experience.
If you ever find yourself injured as the result of someone else's bad driving decisions, we're always here for you. It never costs a thing to speak to us about your situation and your injuries to determine if we can help. We invite you to call our main office in Downtown Fort Myers at 239-461-5508, or just fill out this short form and someone will contact you immediately.