Increasing Conspicuity

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In crashes with motorcyclists, drivers often say that they never saw the motorcycle. From ahead or behind, a motorcycle’s outline is much smaller than a car’s. Also, it’s hard to see something you are not looking for, and most drivers are not looking for motorcycles. More likely, they are looking through the narrow, two-wheeled silhouette in search of cars that may pose a problem to them.

Even if a driver does see you coming, you aren’t necessarily safe. Motorcycles may appear farther away, and seem to be traveling slower than they actually are. It is common for drivers to pull out in front of motorcyclists, thinking they have plenty of time. Too often, they are wrong. However, you can do many things to make it easier for others to recognize you and your cycle.


Most crashes occur in broad daylight. Wear bright colored clothing to increase your chances of being seen. Remember, your body is half of the visible surface area of the rider-motorcycle unit.

Reflective, bright colored clothing is best. Bright orange, red, yellow or green jackets or vests are your best bets for being seen. Brightly colored helmets can also help others see you. Reflective material on a vest and on the sides of the helmet will help drivers coming from the side spot you. Reflective material can also be a big help for drivers coming toward you or from behind.


The best way to help others see your motorcycle is to keep the headlight on – at all times. (NOTE: New motorcycles sold in the USA since 1978 automatically have the headlights on when running.) Studies show that, during the day, a motorcycle with its light on is twice as likely to be noticed. Also, use your low beams in fog or at night when traffic approaches.


The signals on a motorcycle are the same as those on a car. They tell others what you plan to do. Use them anytime you plan to change lanes or turn. Use them even when you think no one else is around. Due to a rider’s added vulnerability, signals are even more important. They make you easier to spot.

When you enter a freeway, drivers approaching from behind are more likely to see your signal blinking and make room for you.

Once you turn, make sure your signal is off or a driver may pull directly into your path, thinking you plan to turn again.

Brake Light

Your motorcycle’s brake light is usually not as noticeable as the brake lights on a car – particularly when your taillight is on. (The taillight goes on with the headlight.) If the situation will permit, help others notice you by flashing your brake light before you slow down.

It is especially important to flash your brake light before:

  • You slow when others might not expect (for example, turning off a high-speed highway.)
  • You slow where others may not expect it (for example, in the middle of a block or at an alley.)

If you are being followed closely, it’s a good idea to flash your brake light before you slow down. The tailgater may be watching you and not see something ahead that will make you slow down. This will hopefully discourage them from tailgating and warn them of hazards ahead they may not see.


Be ready to use your horn to get someone’s attention quickly. Keep in mind that a motorcycle’s horn isn’t as loud as a car’s, therefore, use it, but don’t rely on it. Other strategies may be appropriate along with the horn.