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Last updated

13 December 2010

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Daytime Headlights for Motorcycles

 

The majority of studies have shown there is no statistically significant safety improvement of motorcycles using headlights during daylight, and in fact many indicate that daytime headlight use may reduce safety. The original studies, when almost no vehicles used daytime headlights, showed that a motorcycle was more likely to be seen due to the “novelty effect”. Now that the use of headlights on many vehicles is commonplace, there is no longer such an effect.

 

The use of headlights reduces safety in a number of areas:

  • Observers tend to under-estimate the speed of a vehicle approaching them with headlights on, compared with over-estimating the speed of a motorcycle without lights.

  • As many two vehicle accidents involving a motorcycle are caused by a car under-estimating the speed of the motorcycle and pulling out in front of the motorcycle, daytime headlights are likely to increase the likelihood of this type of accident.

  • The position of a motorcycle with lights is more difficult to determine. The confusing effect of white lights was well know and used by fighter pilots during the 1939-45 war. If another road user is confused about the position of a motorcycle, the chances of an accident are increased.

  •  A light vehicle such as a small motorcycle coupled with the sharp cut of point of the dipped beam on modern lights means that an uneven road surface can cause the illusion that the motorcycle is flashing its headlight. As many road users understand the flashing of headlights as “I am giving way”, the potential for a collision is high. We have experienced one instance of this happening before the motorcycle had even completed 500 miles.

The many motorcyclists that ride with headlights on “because cars keep pulling out in front of them” are deluding themselves that they need their headlight to stop even more pulling out – it is their headlight that is causing the cars to pull out and they would increase their safety by turning off the headlight and using more defensive riding techniques instead.

There is no legal requirement in the UK to ride with headlights on, neither is there a legal requirement to supply motorcycles with hard-wired headlights. Therefore by supplying a motorcycle with a hard-wired headlight, the freedom to choose has been taken away from the motorcycle rider and, considering the safety implications, is an infringement of his or her human rights.

 

The European Union has recognised the many disadvantages of hard-wired headlights, including the environmental effects and the safety of more vulnerable road user, such as pedestrians and cyclists, who are disadvantaged by motor vehicles using daytime lights, and have mandated that all cars sold in the EU are fitted with a means to turn the headlight off.

It seems that the motorcycle manufacturers have decided to do the opposite, masquerading globalisation as a (highly dubious) safety improvement. This is totally unacceptable to the victims of such practices such as the motorcyclists being denied choice and the cyclists and pedestrians who will end up being killed or seriously injured as a result.

 

There is a legal obligation on manufacturers and retailers of motor vehicles to ensure that they are selling a product that does not have defects that may endanger the purchaser or rider. The above points clearly indicate that a hard-wired headlight can, under certain circumstances, put the rider in danger, and the manufacturer would therefore be forced to accept responsibility for an accident caused or partly caused by riding with a headlight on in conditions where dipped headlights are not required by law.

 

Hence, for example, if an accident occurs in clear conditions where another road user failing to correctly estimate the speed or position of the motorcycle is a contributory factor, both civil and legal proceedings could be started against the retailer and manufacturers.