Motorcycle Conspicuity and the effect of auxiliary forward lighting

  • Published: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).; Report number DOT HS 811 507, 2011
  • Authors: Jenness J W, Huey R W, McCloskey S, Singer J, Walrath J, Lubar E and Lerner N D
  • Date Added: 25 Jan 2014
  • Last Update: 25 Jan 2014
  • Format: doc


To determine whether the conspicuity of approaching motorcycles viewed in daylight may be improved by various forward lighting treatments


A field experiment was conducted with 32 participants. The treatments tested included pairs of low-mounted auxiliary lamps (LA), high-mounted auxiliary lamps (HA), both high- and low-mounted auxiliary lamps (LHA), low-mounted LED lamps (LED), and a modulated high beam headlamp (MHB). Participants viewed approaching traffic and indicated when it would be safe (and not safe) to initiate a left turn across the path of approaching vehicles in an opposing lane of traffic. They were not informed that the specific purpose of the study was to examine their reactions to motorcycles.

Key Findings:

  • The mean safety margin provided to an approaching motorcycle with various lighting treatments did not differ significantly between any of the experimental lighting treatments and the baseline treatment (illuminated low beam headlamp). However, having either LA or MHB lamps on the motorcycle significantly reduced the probability of obtaining a short safety margin (< 3.44 seconds) as compared to the baseline lighting treatment.

  • Overall the results suggest that enhancing the frontal conspicuity of motorcycles with lighting treatments beyond an illuminated low beam headlamp may be an effective countermeasure for daytime crashes involving right-of-way violations.


Motorcycle, conspicuity, headlamps, lighting


As noted by the authors, these results should be interpreted cautiously in light of differences that were observed between participants.