Safety tips for motorcycles in low light and at night
Even though the days are finally getting longer as we slowly head back to summer, wherever you live in the Northern Hemisphere, the dark hours will always occupy more of your potential driving time.
This means that on days when you can get out and ride, you are more likely to spend at least part of the trip in low light conditions or at night.
In the height of the summer months, a moonlit cruise on a balmy night has special appeal and can be one of the most memorable motorcycle experiences you’ve ever had. Unfortunately, driving at night presents a special set of dangers and requires specific strategies to counter them.
Of course your bike has lights and you use them all the time, right? This is strategy number one, but there are other things that are part of safe driving in these conditions. Let’s take a look at the best strategies for safer driving at night and in low light conditions.
Dirt and bugs encrusted on the headlight can drastically reduce the amount of light you have in the front, so making sure all of the lights on your bike are working, are oriented correctly, and have clean lenses and intact.
Carry spare bulbs and the appropriate lighting circuit fuses in your bag. Finding a place to get these after-hours items can be difficult, especially on rural walks. Consider upgrading the bulb in older bicycle lighting systems. Halogens, other bulbs, or even LED options may be available to switch from older style sealed beam or incandescent units and project a lot more light, depending on the make and year of your bike.
Also check the brake lights and turn signals to make sure they are working properly. Keeping the side reflectors of the bike intact and visible is also important for being safe after dark. Reflective tape can be added, which greatly improves the visibility of the bike for other motorists.
2. See and be seen:
High visibility and light colored riding gear can make the rider more visible to other riders and riders. In low-light or foggy conditions, fluorescent colors appear to glow by absorbing short-wavelength light not visible to the human eye and re-emitting it as long-wavelength light. wave that the human eye can see.
Jackets made with fluorescent colors paired with retro-reflective materials in logos, stripes or piping can make a rider highly visible from a long distance in the headlights of another vehicle. While you’re at it, don’t forget to gear up – boots, sturdy riding pants, gloves, jacket, helmet, eye protection and maybe a little CE approved impact protection here and there too.
Those dark wrap-around sunglasses or that slick but dark helmet shield that works great at high noon can be potential contributors to a late-day or after-dark disaster. Have a back-up plan to maximize your vision with shatterproof clear riding goggles and / or a clear helmet visor for the long ride home.
A photochromatic screen can also be an option. If you are riding with a windshield and looking through it rather than over it, keep that windshield clean as well. Even a moderate-sized insect splash on the windshield creates an obstruction of view covering square feet of road surface.
Any roadside hazard – such as a deer, coyote, raccoon, or dog ready to kiss your front tire – can be difficult to see in broad daylight; seeing them after dark requires giving yourself every possible benefit. Lots of wildlife become more active after dark, so seeing these creatures by the side of the road in good time can make all the difference.
How critical this can be to safety is reflected in the motorcycle crash data reported here in Wisconsin for the year 2012: 69.9% of motorcycle / deer crashes resulted in death or injury to a motorcyclist. This compares to just 13.6 percent involving automobiles.
4. Lose speed, no control:
Riding at high speed with anything after dark is riskier than during the day, but on a motorcycle, high speed alone can erase the positive effects on safety of anything you can do. The answer is simple; keep your speed of movement in the straight lines and even more in the turns.
Extend your subsequent distances from other vehicles – other drivers can’t see as well, so unexpected things looming in the headlights are more likely to panic them. On unfamiliar roads this becomes a critical factor; an innocent descending ray wedge that is just plain fun to carve in daylight can trick you past the fog line and into trees after dark.
Driving a motor vehicle with alcohol or any other intoxicating substance on board is an invitation to disaster; riding a motorcycle at night under these circumstances defies common sense. Yet motorcycle accident data from here in Wisconsin proves it is happening.
There were 233 alcohol-related motorcycle crashes in Wisconsin in 2012. Of these, 191 or 82.0% occurred between 4 p.m. and 4 a.m. In 2012, 603 motorcycle crashes occurred in the state of Wisconsin during the hours of darkness and at dusk or dawn, resulting in 28 deaths and 574 injuries.
So while crashes after dark or in low-light conditions made up only 23.6% of the total number of motorcycle crashes in Wisconsin in 2012, they resulted in 25% of fatalities and 22. 7% of injuries. These figures are somewhat surprising given that the vast majority of recreational kilometers traveled are during the day.
So if you are going to be a night cyclist even for a relatively short distance, slow down, brace yourself, stay straight and enjoy the ride safely because there will always be more great daytime rides too!