On a motorcycle, being safe is being seen. Many motor vehicle versus motorcycle accidents occurs because the driver failed to see the motorcyclist. Although riders would like to blame it on the drivers, the truth is often the color of the gear they choose to ride in can be a contributory factor.
By wearing gear that is going to stand out, riders can give drivers a hand and make sure they can be seen.
Best Color For Motorcycle Jacket Safety
Color versus motion
The reason drivers frequently don’t see riders is that they are comparatively small when alongside the other road users. The way the human brain analyzes and processes visual images has the driver’s attention drawn to the larger vehicles on the road. By wearing gear that stands out, riders help draw the drivers’ attention back toward themselves.
Research has shown that our brains process form and color separately from motion, which in normal speak basically means humans see color before motion, so by wearing gear that stands out, you are more likely to be seen earlier.
There is a wide range of different jackets and vests out there that can make a rider more visible on the road. To be fair there isn’t a lot of difference between a lot of the products, they are all pretty visible out on the road. But, is there one particular color that stands out above the others?
The research is a mixed bag, with at least one study suggesting a jacket is too small an area to make a noticeable difference to rider safety.
Monash University Study
There is definitive research completed by Monash University in Australia regarding the best color for a motorcycle to improve its safety while riding. Researchers considered the impact of color on traffic crashes and found white was the safest color. It represents the best way to get noticed when out on the road on your bike.
Researchers also found when compared to white:
- green had a 4% higher crash risk
- blue had an increased risk of 7%
- red had a similar 7% higher crash risk
- silver had a 10% higher crash risk
- grey had an increased risk of 11%
- black had an increased risk of 12%
It should come as no surprise, that the other colors that fared well in the safety desks are variations on white such as yellow, beige, and cream. The addition of a white helmet to your riding ensemble reduces the risk of an accident by 24%.
On the other end of the spectrum, the colors that fared poorly in terms of visibility and safety include grey, silver, blue, and red. Black, despite being the most popular choice for motorcycle gear, falls into the high-risk category.
The danger zone
It’s generally accepted that dusk and dawn present challenging times for motorcyclists. During these periods the light is low and visibility reduced as a result. Over these periods, if you’re wearing black, you have a 47% higher crash risk than those wearing white. Those wearing grey were 25% more likely to be involved in a crash, and silver 15% more likely.
The conclusion of the research was that during the day, there is a strong and consistent relationship between the color of your jacket and the risk of an accident. Although there is a similar positive correlation at nighttime, the effect is somewhat blunted, with the positive effect not as noticeable.
A number of countries now require motorcyclists to have a certain amount of retroreflective material on their gear for safety. This usually takes the form of tape or piping across the back and arms. In France, this is even required on the helmet. Retroreflective gear has been shown to increase the visibility of motorcyclists considerably.
High Visibility Clothing
Given how effective retroreflective material is, it’s not a huge leap of faith to see that a jacket made entirely of high visibility materials is going to be a lot more visible. It’s no accident that emergency crews wear high visibility jackets when on the scene of an accident.
This clothing is typical fluorescent yellow or orange and represents a large solid block of color that is specifically designed to catch a driver’s eye. Wearing high visibility gear decreases your risk of a crash by 37%.
White is the most effective color for increasing motorcyclists’ visibility on the road. It stands out sufficiently to catch the eye of passing drivers, meaning they are aware you are there. For those preferring dark colors when riding, retroreflective materials may prove a lifesaver, especially at night.
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About the author: Michael Parrotte was the Vice President of AGV Helmets America, and a consultant for KBC Helmets, Vemar Helmets, Suomy Helmets, Marushin Helmets, KYT Helmets, Sparx Helmets. In addition, he is the founder and owner of AGV Sports Group.