Motorcyclists are faced with an inherent danger just by the fact that they are smaller than other vehicles on the road. A high percentage of motorcycle accidents are caused by failure to yield violations, often a left turn in front of a motorcycle. Often the violator’s excuse is “I didn’t see him”, or “I made a left turn and it (the motorcycle) came out of nowhere”. There has even been legislation to increase the penalties for offenders in motorcycle accidents, for instance, the Pickholtz Act in Louisiana, and there are motorcycle organizations like the Motorcycle Awareness Campaign and American Motorcycle Association working to increase awareness of riders on our roads and highways. Despite these efforts, the right of way violation issue remains a big problem for motorcyclists.
According to the Hurt Study (the most comprehensive motorcycle safety study to date), 77% of two vehicle motorcycle accidents occur in the 10, 11, 12, 1, and 2 o’clock positions of the motorcycle. The area behind the rider, accounts only for about 3% of impacts. From this study it is easy to conclude that not only are drivers not seeing motorcyclists, most of the time they aren’t seeing them when they are approaching from the front.
There are things riders can do to increase their frontal visibility, like wearing brightly colored clothing, however, the most effective accessory for frontal visibility may be a device called a motorcycle headlight modulator.
A motorcycle headlight modulator is a device that increases and decreases the intensity of a motorcycle headlight fast enough that the headlight appears to flicker, or “modulate”. The modulation of the headlight makes the motorcycle significantly more visible to other drivers – as much as 200% more visible. Higher visibility means increased rider safety.
The motorcycle headlight modulator is now legal in all fifty states and Canada. For a short time, states resisted its use because they claimed it could be confused with a police officer light, or be distracting to other drivers, but it has proven to be a viable safety product to help keep motorcyclists visible and safe on the roads and has rapidly become accepted by every state. Furthermore, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVS) 108 supersedes all state laws as long as certain compliance standards are met. To view the DOT Regulations regarding headlight modulators, click here.
Motorcycle headlight modulators are all fairly easy to install and all have a programmable daylight sensor (Federal law prohibits using them at night). Headlight modulators are available as either a plug-and-play installation or splice-in installation. The plug-and-play versions are a little bit more expensive, but they also significantly decrease the installation time and can be installed by just about anyone. The splice-in versions, while less expensive, will require a working understanding of electrical wiring, and will take more time to install.
Just because riding a motorcycle can be a dangerous activity, there are simple things you can do to significantly decrease your chances of being in a serious or fatal accident. Constantly honing your skills, and taking courses in motorcycle safety instruction will help ensure you are able to spot and prevent potential dangers before they occur. For that all important frontal visibility, a motorcycle headlight modulator can give you that extra visibility that may make the difference between staying safe or getting hurt.