A new study led by researchers at Rice University in Houston has found that a reimagined lighting configuration for motorcycles could help improve the ability of other motorists to see them.
Motorcycle drivers are 27 times more likely to die in an accident than those travelling in regular passenger vehicles. Night driving is particularly dangerous, accounting for nearly half of all fatal crashes.
‘Because motorcycles are smaller than many other vehicles, it is more difficult for other drivers to accurately judge their motion on the roadway,’ said Bradley Weaver, a human-factors engineer and researcher who did his doctoral dissertation on the topic. ‘It is particularly difficult at night when a motorcycle has only a single headlight because other drivers can’t see the motorcycle’s full height or width.’
The study revealed that a headlight configuration that uses six lights running from the top to the bottom of a motorcycle rather than a single headlight could result in other motorists being able to see motorcycles up to 0.8 seconds sooner.
‘Just under a second might not seem like a lot, but reducing a driver’s response time to a potential collision can make a difference between life and death,’ said Pat DeLucia, a professor of psychological sciences who conducts human-factors research, particularly related to transportation and health care.
For the study, DeLucia and Weaver recruited 35 people between the ages of 19 and 70 to take part in a laboratory driving simulation. The researchers measured how quickly the participants saw motorcycles with various enhanced lighting configurations that illuminated their full height and width. Each of the new designs improved response times compared with a single headlight, but the participants reacted most quickly to the configuration of six lights.
The study has been published in Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour.