The risk of a motorcycle accident doubles between 3 PM and 9 PM when the light is dim, and the roads are busy. (1)
In fact, despite only representing about a quarter of the day, around half of motorcycle fatalities occur during this time.
With appropriate safety practices, though, you can decrease these risks.
These are the ways I’ve learned to stay safe and visible while riding a motorcycle at night.
Night Riding Tips
1. Increase Follow Distance
The number one safety issue I’ve noticed when riding is that drivers often don’t see me, even though I’m 6’3″ and riding a reasonably large bike. Drivers are terrible at detecting motorcyclists around them, which is doubly true at night. You should assume that no one sees you and act accordingly.
One way to do so is to increase the distance you follow behind other vehicles. This will give you more reaction time if they do something unexpected due to not seeing you in their mirrors.
2. Reduce Speed
Just as other drivers don’t see motorcyclists as well at night, you don’t see cars and other obstacles as well either.
Plus, your depth perception may be skewed. As a result, you can give yourself more time to react to unexpected obstacles or problems by riding more slowly than you would during the day.
3. Pass Cautiously
I’ve noticed that other motorists are least likely to see me when I’m passing. On a motorcycle, it can be dangerous to be side by side with another car that may suddenly invade your lane.
As a result, I spend as little time next to another car while passing as possible. I also give a wide berth, and if there are more than two lanes, put a lane between me and the other vehicle while passing.
4. Use Your Brights on Conventional Highways
Conventional highways are the most dangerous roadways and one of the most common places for lethal motorcycle accidents, especially at night when the road isn’t lit, and trees block out light from the moon and stars.
Turn on your high beams to make yourself more visible and see potential obstacles that may be hidden in the dark.
5. Avoid Looking Into Headlights
When driving at night, especially on congested highways, there are a lot of headlights going in different directions. Looking into these lights can temporarily blind you, meaning you can’t see a sudden situational change. It might also ruin your night vision, a problem if you exit the highway onto a less adequately lit roadway.
It is vital as a motorcyclist to maintain situational awareness and check your surroundings. Nonetheless, while riding at night, try to keep your eyes in your lane and when you do look at oncoming traffic, look a bit higher and avoid looking directly into other vehicles’ headlights.
6. Use a Clean, Clear Face Shield
A tinted face shield makes it all the more difficult to see important aspects of your surroundings and react to changing driving situations.
You should use a clear face shield at night that allows maximum light to pass through. Most helmets have a tinted face shield that is retractable, so make sure you flip that switch before you go riding at night.
Similarly, you should keep your face shield as clean as possible. Dust or smudges on your face shield can scatter light and obscure your vision, so wipe down your face shield every so often to keep it clear.
7. Wear Bright Colors
Visible colors are always a good idea, but at night, they can help you stay visible to other motorists. Studies have found that the safest color is white, with cream, orange, and light yellow also being highly visible. The least visible colors are blue, black, and green.
Even if you can’t find or don’t want to wear a white or yellow motorcycle jacket, getting one with white stripes or using a white helmet can dramatically increase your safety at night.
8. Use the Right Equipment
These days there’s a lot of different equipment you can get to increase your safety at night. This primarily includes various devices or articles of clothing that are reflective and increase your visibility. These are what I like to use.
Reflective Helmet: Sedici Sistema II Horizon
Many helmets have high-vis options that come in bright colors or at least have reflective stripes that shine when cars’ headlights hit them. I recommend the Sistema II Horizon from Sedici because you can get it with high-vis yellow detailing that still looks sleek and stylish.
Reflective Vest: REV’IT! Hi-Viz Connector Vest
A reflective vest is the easiest way to make yourself more visible at night, especially since you can wear it over a more stylish jacket during the daytime or on the street.
I like the high-vis vest from REV’IT because it’s a simple, low-cost option that still fits snugly and securely without getting in your way. It even has an adjustable waistband.
Reflective Luggage Strips: Brilliant Reflective Iron-On And Stick-On Reflective Kit
You can also get reflective strips that you can iron onto your motorcycle luggage or even your jacket or riding pants if you are so inclined. These Brilliant strips are great because you get a lot of different sizes, and they’re machine washable, so it’s an inexpensive way to stay safe night after night.
Reflective Wheel Stripes: Factory Effex Reflective Wheel Stripes
To make your motorcycle more visible day and night without having to remember to wear specific gear, you can apply reflective stripes to both sides of each wheel. Try these from Factory Effex. I like that you have many color options to match your bike, though the yellow version is the most visible.
Reflective Arm and Ankle Bands
I like to wear reflective bands on my wrists and ankles while riding at night. It’s a simple, discreet way to stay safe, and they increase your visibility since you tend to move your wrists and ankles around a lot while riding, so they reflect light into other drivers’ eyes.
I love these Oxford bands because you get two for a super low price, and they fit comfortably with a hassle-free hook-and-loop attachment.