Black motorcycle helmets are popular because they’re stylish and look cool. Psychologically speaking, it could be said that black is related to people who are rebellious. Well, let’s face it, how many Hell’s Angels wear white helmets?
But, for whatever reason, black helmets are the most popular amongst motorcycle riders. The question is though, are black helmets more dangerous and white helmets safer?
It could be argued that white helmets may be associated with people who are more safety conscious, so, therefore, they would be inclined to be more careful. But, the question remains, are white motorcycle helmets safer? Let’s see what we can find out.
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A research study published in 2004 has shown that white helmets are clearly safer than darker colored helmets, as are lighter colored clothes more visual than darker clothes. Not just at night, but during daylight hours as well. However, while white helmets are safer than black helmets, they may not necessarily be the safest colored helmet. Read on.
Are black helmets less safe?
The research study cited above was conducted in Auckland, New Zealand between 1993 to 1996 with the results published in 2004. I won’t bore you with all of the numbers and statistical data, just the parts that we’re interested in, but if you want you can follow the link above and read the study for more information.
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I’ve taken the numbers from the original study and put them into a graphical chart so that it’s easier to visualize. See the chart below, ‘Helmet Color – Control Vs Accident Cases by %’. On the left side we have ‘Control’. It represents a random cross-section of the motorcycling population of Auckland, from a total of 1233 random motorcycles that were stopped during roadblocks and some from roadside photographs.
What you can see on the Control section of the chart is that black helmets and white helmets are clearly the most popular color choices among motorcycle riders, with black being chosen by almost 40% of riders and just a tad over 30% choosing white helmets. Red fills third place being the choice of almost 14% of motorcyclists.
On the right-hand side of the chart, you can see at the bottom it says, ‘Accident Cases’. These numbers come from 463 motorcycle drivers or pillion passengers who were killed, admitted to hospital, or treated in a public hospital emergency department during the study period. What we can see is a marked increase in the number of black motorcycle helmets worn in the accident cases group, as well as the decrease in the numbers of white and red motorcycle helmets.
The first piece of undeniable data is that the vast majority of accidents involving motorcycles include riders wearing black helmets. So, the answer to this paragraph’s question, ‘Are black helmets less safe?’, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’. Sorry guys but a fact’s a fact. I’m sure you can’t say you’re surprised by that though. But, I think it’s also fair to say that it’s not necessarily your fault, and I think you know that too.
This would confirm that white motorcycle helmets are indeed safer than black motorcycle helmets, and red helmets are also safer than black. What is the safest colored motorcycle helmet?
What is the safest colored motorcycle helmet?
In the next chart, we are comparing the numbers from ‘Control’ with the numbers from ‘Accident Cases’ to measure the percentage increase or decrease. We can see that the chance of a black motorcycle helmet being involved in a motor vehicle accident increases by 15%, while the chance of a white motorcycle helmet being involved in a motor vehicle accident decreases by almost 21%.
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However, if you were to choose a yellow or orange motorcycle helmet, the risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident decreases by a whopping 30%, and even a red helmet has a reduced risk of 13%. On the other hand, ‘other colors’ (brown, gold, green, purple, grey, silver, pink, etc.) increased by 59%.
The message here is quite clear. Brighter colors have a better chance of being seen by motorists and have a reduced risk of being involved in an accident.
The results of the research study show that a white motorcycle helmet is safer than black, but yellow or orange are the safest of all. Although the researchers go on to say that due to the low number of red and yellow/orange helmets in the study the numbers for those colored helmets did not achieve standard levels of statistical significance.
Statistical significance aside, it does make sense that those colors would be more visible than the ever popular black helmets. Even the WHO Helmet Manual, cites a study that shows that the likelihood of having an accident in a white helmet is lowered by 24% compared to wearing a black helmet.
According to sciencing.com, from a distance, the most visible color in daytime is green, and the most visible color at night is yellow. It’s all about conspicuity, meaning, to be clearly seen or bright, being conspicuous. Be seen, be safe!
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In fact, the research study wasn’t just about the color of motorcycle helmets, but about “Motorcycle rider conspicuity”. The study included the color of the motorcycle, the color of the clothes worn by the motorcyclist, as well as the color of the helmet. There are many factors involved in making a motorcyclist more obviously conspicuous to car drivers and as a result in a safer position. Let’s take a look into how you can make yourself more visible on the roads.
What else can I do to be seen/safe?
High visibility is the name of the game. Don’t give drivers the opportunity to say “Sorry buddy, I didn’t see you”. Along with your bright orange or yellow helmet, you could try bright reflective clothing. If you’re not ready to totally give up your darker colored riding gear, there’s nothing wrong with having a brightly colored reflective vest to wear just for riding. And don’t say, “I wouldn’t be seen dead in one of them”, much better to be seen alive in one of them. Think about it.
Hi-Viz vests are available at ridiculously inexpensive prices on Amazon. No excuses for not wearing one.
|Available on Amazon||Available on Amazon|
You could also get some 3M Scotchlite Reflective Vinyl Tape from Amazon to stick on your motorcycle as well as your helmet, or some of the 3M Scotchlite Reflective Iron-on strips, also available from Amazon.
Also, you might not be interested in wearing an orange or yellow helmet, but you could possibly be convinced to wear a white helmet. In that case, try a white helmet with a black shield. They look totally awesome.
Some more tips that every motorcyclist should already know.
When traveling behind a car, stay out of his blind spot. Stick right behind the car, on the driver’s side where you can see the driver in his side mirror. If you can see the driver in the mirror, then he can see you.
Always use your turn signal, don’t give anyone an excuse to say “Sorry buddy, I didn’t see you”.
When slowing down, tap your brakes so that the brake lights flash the driver behind you who is probably busy playing with his phone. Tapping the brakes can also be a good wake up call to tailgaters.
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The results of the study also showed that riding with your lights on high-beam during the day was also beneficial to be seen by car drivers. You may need to check local laws regarding the legality of having lights on during the day.
Always assume that you are invisible to car drivers. This means that you need to be totally aware of everything that’s going on around you at all times. You need eyes in the back of your orange helmet. Why not check out the price of Orange and Yellow motorcycle helmets on Amazon, they’re not all that bad.
Make yourself visible to car drivers, get a yellow helmet, a hi-viz vest or jacket, and turn the high-beams on. Be seen, be safe(r).