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Why motorcycle riders shun high-visibility clothing

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Motorcycle riders are greatly overrepresented in U.S. traffic deaths, with more than 5,000 killed each year.

The Governors Highway Safety Association says frequently, when cars and motorcycles are involved in a crash, the drivers of the car said they didn't even see the motorcycle.

The safety group says wearing high-visibility clothing could help to prevent some of those kinds of crashes – but its new study finds many reasons why motorcycle riders don't.

Spokeswoman Kara Macek says many who participated in the study dislike the neon colors used in most high visibility or reflective clothing. The clothing is often not seen as "cool," and participants in the study had some derogatory names for those who do wear it, such as "midlife crisis riders."

Others did not think the high-visibility clothing would help, believing that the noise of their motorcycles would make car drivers notice them, more than high visibility gear.

"The few folks that did report wearing this gear said that they did so because they themselves had been involved in a crash with a motor vehicle," says Macek, "or someone they knew had been involved in a crash with a motor vehicle."

Macek says states can use the study to educate motorcycle riders about the importance of wearing reflective or high visibility clothing.

And she says companies should make the clothing more appealing to motorcyclists.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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