4.1 Communications and Outreach: Conspicuity and Protective Clothing
Overall Effectiveness Concerns: This countermeasure is widely used, but it has not been extensively studied. There is some evidence that certain approaches may lead to limited positive outcomes; however, there are insufficient evaluation data to determine the extent of effectiveness.
Motorcycle riders should wear clothing that provides both protection and visibility. FMVSS 218 helmets (the Motorcycle Safety chapter, Sections 1.1-1.3) with face shields protect the eyes from wind and foreign objects as well as protect the head in a crash (Brewer et al., 2013). Well-constructed jackets, pants, boots, and gloves can prevent abrasions and bruises. If made of impact-resistant material, they even may prevent arm and leg fractures or serious torso and spinal cord injuries (NHTSA, 2000). The benefits of protective clothing, especially equipped with body armor, was further confirmed by studies of Australian motorcyclists involved in crashes (de Rome et al., 2011 and 2012).
While some protective gear is vented and mitigates overheating, some riders avoid wearing it in hot weather. It has been shown to elevate body core and skin temperature and produce cardiovascular stress, leading to increased reaction time, errors, perceived workload, and mood disturbances (de Rome et al., 2016; de Rome & Brown, 2016).
A common perception among riders is that a frequent cause of motorcycle crashes involving other vehicles is that other vehicle drivers do not see the motorcycles. The Hurt et al. (1981) study from the United States and a Clarke et al. study from the United Kingdom (2007) report right-of-way collisions are more frequently the fault of the other motorists rather than the motorcycle riders. Failure of vehicle drivers to perceive motorcyclists seems to occur in a significant portion of these crashes. One easy way to increase motorcycle conspicuity is through continuous headlight use. Most motorcycles manufactured since 1979 have headlights that turn on automatically when the vehicles are started (NCHRP, 2008, Strategy D2). Additionally, 24 States require daytime headlight use for all motorcycles manufactured after a certain date (all at least 20 years ago) (MSF, 2016). However, the increasing prevalence of passenger vehicles using continuous headlights may reduce the visibility and effectiveness of motorcycle headlights (Cavallo & Pinto, 2012).
A second way to increase conspicuity is to wear brightly colored clothing, use white or bright- colored helmets (for increased visibility during daylight), and incorporate retroreflective materials or devices for increased visibility at night. Research confirms that motorcyclists wearing conspicuous clothing or helmets are less likely to be involved in crashes (Wells et al., 2004; NCHRP, 2008, Strategy D1). However, many riders deliberately choose not to wear brightly colored clothing or riding gear. There are no data on how many motorcycle riders wear types of protective clothing (other than helmets) or use auxiliary devices. Helmet manufacturers and distributors report that more than half the helmets sold for street use are black and the predominant color of motorcycle clothing is black (NCHRP, 2008, Strategy D1).
As discussed, auxiliary headlights and brake lights, flashing headlights, and other vehicle technologies enhance conspicuity, but their effects on crashes have not been studied. Adoption of these technologies may be useful to promote among the motorcycling community, may require changes in laws if visibility enhancing technologies are restricted by States, and may also involve working with manufacturers and producers of motorcycles and auxiliary devices (NCHRP, 2008).
States and motorcyclist organization communications and outreach promote protective and conspicuous clothing. Some State training programs also teach the benefits of using high-visibility clothing. The NCHRP (2008, Strategy D1) provides examples of material from Oregon and the MSF and references to additional material from the SMSA, and the Gold Wing Road Riders Association.
Use: Of the 44 States responding to a survey question, 33 reported encouraging conspicuity- enhancing clothing and helmets to enhance motorcyclists’ visibility (Baer et al., 2010). The extent or nature of these efforts is unknown.
Effectiveness: High-visibility clothing and protective gear enhance safety. Some limited evidence suggests programs aimed at increasing conspicuous and protective clothing would be successful. An Australian study found that the observed proportion of riders wearing full body protection increased in the month following an enforcement/educational campaign emphasizing conspicuous and protective clothing among other safety issues. However, it is unclear whether any real safety benefits were sustained (Baldock et al., 2012)
In Puerto Rico changes to motorcycle safety laws accompanied outreach to inform motorcyclists about changes and to encourage compliance. In response, motorcyclists adopted the practice of wearing protective clothing, and LEOs reported that riders both appeared to be aware of the law and expected to be stopped and cited for infractions (Fell et al., 2017). Four years after enactment, observations of motorcyclists found that more than 80% of motorcyclists wore protective apparel, and 68% wore reflective vests after 6 pm in compliance with the law.
Costs: Good communications and outreach campaigns can be expensive to develop and implement: see the Seat Belts and Child Restraints chapter, Section 3.1. Information promoting protective and conspicuous clothing is available from sources including MSF, other motorcyclist organizations, and States that have conducted these campaigns (NCHRP, 2008, Strategy D1).
Time to implement: A proper campaign, including market research, message development and testing, and implementation, will require at least 6 months to plan and implement.