Study: Bright Colors Save Lots of Motorcyclists' Lives

Research from New Zealand reaffirms the value of bright motorcycle helmets, reflective clothing, and daytime headlight usage. Just choosing a bright-colored helmet can cut your crash risk by 24%. By Art Fr

Wearing a bright-colored helmet can cut a motorcycle rider's crash risk by a quarter, according to a new study by researchers in New Zealand, and combining that helmet with reflective clothing can improve the odds in your favor by more than a third. This reaffirms past research that has shown that traditional dark-colored motorcyclist clothing works against riders in terms of accident avoidance.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal offers the following conclusions:

  • "Compared with wearing a black helmet, use of a white helmet was associated with a 24% lower risk ... We found similar associations for red and a combined group of yellow and orange helmets..."

  • "Drivers wearing reflective or fluorescent clothing had a 37% lower risk of crash related injury than those who were not wearing such materials...the protective association seemed to increase with falling light levels..." :

  • "Voluntary use of headlight in daytime was associated with a 27% lower risk of crash related injury..."

    Surprisingly, the study found "no association between risk of crash related injury and the frontal colour of drivers' clothing or motorcycle." This is at odds with the Hurt Report (now a quarter-century old, but still the only comprehensive study of U.S. motorcycle accidents) that concluded just the opposite. However, the Hurt researchers did not identify helmet color as such a signficant accident-avoidance factor.

    Though the study doesn't look at the issue specifically, people knowledgeable about conspicuity point out that solid bright colors are more useful than patterns that combine bright colors. A solid white, yellow, bright red, or orange lid is more likely to catch a driver's eye than one that combines those colors in an intricate design.

    You can find the study here:
    British Medical Journal

    The following articles discuss the study:
    Health Day
    Web MD
    China View
    Femail, UK

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