Safety Tip: Safety Auxiliary Lights

Northern Colorado Indian Motorcycle Riders Group Poudre Canyon

NoCo IMRG Safety Tip of the Month..It’s a long one so bear with me and read to the end. Enjoy!!

I get many questions while out on the road about my Clearwater lights that are mounted on each side of the fender of my Roadmaster. The common theme is why? While not trying to sound to technical there is a scientific reason for these lights…

A 1980 study entitled “Human Factors in Transport Research” found that “The most important issue with [gear] is the contrast a motorcyclist makes with its’ background.” A more recent Dutch study concluded that “…contrast with the environment is a major factor to improve conspicuity.”

Another study by Honda Research and Development determined The LONG (Longitudinal Oriented Normative time Gap compensation) concept describes a lighting system that enhances the conspicuity of motorcycles by enhancing the ability of oncoming drivers to evaluate the distance and speed of a motorcycle equipped with lighting in the LONG configuration. It is based on the hypothesis that a motorcycle observed at the same distance and speed as an automobile may be perceived farther away and traveling more slowly than the automobile, because of the motorcycle’s higher lamp location and narrower lighting layout compared with that of an automobile. To address this the LONG configured are spread farther apart along a vertical axis compared to the relatively tightly grouped lighting layout found on a typical motorcycle. This configuration of lighting is known as the “triangle of conspicuity” which allows a motorist to differentiate between a motorcycle and a car with a headlight out.

How you may ask? As the triangle gets larger, the human brain can better determine triangle is getting closer. No matter what grade you received in your geometry and trigonometry classes, your brain automatically performs thousands of geometric and trigonometric calculations per second when it is viewing an approaching motorcycle with a triangular array of lights. Cut that down to one single headlight, and your brain has much less information to process. Because of this, adding a set of auxiliary lights to a motorcycle increases motorists’ ability to judge a motorcyclist’s distance by approximately 10%, and speed by approximately 20%, as well as their direction. This is particularly useful in preventing the most common motorcycle crash situation – the oncoming left turn.

The Color of these lights are extremely important…We see color based on the distance between the peaks of waves of energy (wavelengths) of the spectrum generated by light-emitting sources, and how the rods and cones in our eyes are stimulated by these wavelengths. For example, our eyes perceive wavelengths of light between 620 and 750 nanometers (nm) as red, 590 to 620 nm as orange, 570-590 nm as yellow, and 495 to 570 nm as green.

So, what’s the deal with selective yellow? Scientists have found that the human eye is most sensitive to light at a wavelength of 555 nanometers, which corresponds to the bright shade of yellow-green that we’re used to seeing in industrial and motorcycle safety gear. This is why Clearwater day running protective lens covers filter out all wavelengths of light except for 555 nm. I know this is a ton of technical mumbo-jumbo but the bottom line is these lights will mitigate the risk of someone pulling out in front of you…