How Effective?


An analysis of the effect of motorcycle training on road traffic collisions, undertaken for the Cochrane Collaboration (an international not-for-profit body focussed on delivering high quality evidence for health care) in 2010, found that:

  • Most studies suffered from serious methodological weaknesses. Most were non-randomised and controlled poorly for confounders. Most also suffered from detection bias due to the poor use of outcome measurement tools. Small sample sizes and short follow-up time after training were also common.

  • Due to the poor quality of studies identified, the authors were unable to draw any conclusions about the effectiveness of rider training on crash, injury, or offence rates.

(Kardamanidis et al, 2010)

Equipment and clothing

A systematic review examining the effectiveness of motorcycle helmets in reducing injury found that:

  • Motorcycle helmets reduced the risk of death and head injury in motorcyclists who crashed. Helmets were estimated:

    • To reduce the risk of death by 42%

    • To reduce the risk of head injury by 69%

(Liu et al, 2008)

Protective clothing is thought to offer the greatest injury reduction in low impact crashes. A cohort study of motorcycle crashes conducted in Australia found that:

  • Motorcycle protective clothing was associated with a significantly reduced risk of injury in crashes, particularly when body armour was fitted. Compared to those wearing non-motorcycle clothing, motorcyclists wearing motorcycle protective clothing fitted with body armour were significantly less likely to sustain injuries to the protected areas (there was a 23 per cent lower risk of injury associated with motorcycle jackets, 45 per cent with motorcycle gloves and 45 per cent with motorcycle boots).

  • The risk of any foot or ankle injuries was reduced by 53 per cent by non-motorcycle boots when compared to shoes or trainers, a risk reduction similar to motorcycle boots.

(de Rome et al, 2011)

A recent review regarding interventions to increase motorcyclists' conspicuity and visibility found that:

  • There is evidence demonstrating that bright clothing and daytime running lights can improve conspicuity.

  • Lighting that accentuates the form of the motorcycle helps observers to determine the time to arrival of the approaching bike (especially at night).

  • The evidence indicates that colour can improve the effectiveness of interventions e.g. coloured motorcycle lights improve visability against surrounding vehicles with white lights.

  • Effectiveness can depend on the background surroundings (higher contrast with background improves visability and conspicuity) and riders should be aware of these limitations.

(Helman et al, 2012)

A study examined judgements of approach speeds for motorcyclists and how low light compounded perceptual limitations. Research has found that perception of  vehicle speed could be affected by vehicle speed, with smaller vehicles appearing to travel more slowly and thus reaching the observation point at a later time than larger vehicles. This can be exacerbated at night when the contours of the rider and vehicle can no longer be depicted. A study examined how individuals judge the speed of motorcycles and cars over a number of different light level conditions. It found:

  • The accuracy of judgement remained constant for cars across all lighting levels.

  • Participant estimations of motorcycles with a solo headlight were significantly less accurate as lighting levels degraded

  • The addition of a tri-headlight formation considerably reduced the degradation in speed judgements under lower light conditions. However, judgements were still poorer than the car.

  • Whilst this is less than optimal, the introduction of the tri-headlight formation could reduce the likelihood of right of way violation collisions occurring.

  • It was also suggested that media campaigns aiming to raise driver awareness could also aim to increase knowledge about the potential for inaccurate judgements of vehicle speeds, particularly for motorcyclists.

(Gould et al, 2012)

A recent European project (‘2 BE SAFE’), co-funded by the European Commission, undertook a range of behavioural and ergonomics research with the aim of developing countermeasures to improve the safety of motorcyclist and moped riders. Key findings from a summary of the experimental studies on conspicuity include:

  • The traffic environment, including cars with daytime running lights, potentially reduces drivers’ ability to perceive powered-two-wheelers (PTWs).

  • Varying riders’ clothing (bright clothes, reflective warning vests, and dark clothes) can enhance riders’ conspicuity in certain situations but the effects are strongly mediated by the background conditions (e.g. lighting conditions) and by the characteristics of the driving situation (e.g. urban vs. rural traffic environment).

  • Variations of specific frontal light configurations were found as promising solutions to enhance PTWs conspicuity i.e. providing a unique visual signature/signal pattern for PTWs to other road users would facilitate recognition and identification processes.

  • Variation of the light colour (yellow headlights), additional helmet lights (‘Alternating Blinking Light System’) and specific frontal light arrangements with additional lights installed on the front of the PTW (e.g. T-shaped, V-shaped, FACE design) were considered as possible approaches to implement such a visual signature. Results revealed advantages in terms of a better detection and faster identification for yellow coloured headlights, ABLS and additional lights on the fork and handlebars for motorcycles (T-shaped light configuration).

  • The experiments revealed a beneficial effect of ‘priming’ car drivers to actively look for PTWs in the traffic scene.

(Weare and Parkes, 2013)

Motorcycle design

A study carried out on behalf of the European Commission looked at the potential impact of technical changes in connection with proposed European type approval requirements. This indicated that, within the EU:

  • Mandating advanced braking systems (ABS) for all bikes showed that for injury mitigation there is a benefit cost ratio (BCR) in the longer term of 2.3 to 3.0 as against doing nothing i.e. no change from the current situation. Mandating a combination of ABS for larger bikes and combined breaking systems (CBS) for bikes under 125cc also showed a benefit in the longer term (BCR 2.0 to 2.6).

  • The study also looked at the relationship between maximum power and accident risk but was not able to establish a direct link.

(Robinson et al, 2009)


In the UK, national road safety motorcycling campaigns are conducted through the Department for Transport’s THINK! campaign. The THINK! BIKER ‘Named Rider’ campaign first ran in March 2010 (last running from March to May 2013). The campaign aims to humanise motorcyclists and build empathy between drivers and motorcyclists.

A post-campaign evaluation conducted in April 2010 found that:

  • 69 per cent of respondents had seen advertising about motorcyclist road safety in at least one of the sources used in the ‘Named Rider’ campaign e.g. TV, radio, poster hoarding.

  • 17 per cent of respondents spontaneously described aspects of a campaign that could be directly attributed to ‘Named Rider’ e.g. recall of an ad with signs above motorcyclists.

  • 56 per cent of respondents recognised the ‘Named Rider’ TV ad, and 21 per cent recognised the radio ad.

  • 58 per cent agreed that when they see a motorcycle, they think about the person riding it (a significant increase from the 51 per cent at pre-stage).

(Angle et al, 2010)


  • Date Added: 03 Apr 2012, 08:19 AM
  • Last Update: 01 Feb 2017, 04:35 PM