One of the most common locations for motorcycle crashes is at intersections and are often caused by vehicle drivers turning left in front of an oncoming motorcyclist. 42% of all motorcycle accidents involve this situation. The at-fault vehicle driver is usually heard to say that they did not see the oncoming motorcyclist, or sometimes that they thought the motorcyclist was further away. The second type of crash at intersections involve motorcyclists being rear-ended by other vehicles, with similar statements by the at-fault drivers, that they did not see the motorcycle.

It has been long established that increased conspicuity for motorcyclists is a critical factor in avoiding motorcycle crashes, a finding in the famous Hurt Report https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_findings_in_the_Hurt_Report. That headlight modulators and taillight flashers increase visibility is why emergency vehicles use them.

In the late 1990s, I started installing headlight and taillight modulators on my bikes. Headlight modulators cause the headlight to alternate between higher and lower intensity during daytime hours, and taillight flashers work when the brakes are applied. I had seen other riders use these devices and was struck by how much more visible they were. We have all experienced the fear of someone turning left in front of us when approaching an intersection, and many of us try to look at the drivers faces to see where they’re looking. When riding with a headlight modulator, it is obvious you are more visible to other drivers; you can often see them looking at you. Similarly, with taillight flashers when the brakes are applied, you are more visible to drivers coming up behind you at intersections. But, these types of devices should not replace strong vigilance and riding defensively as if you are invisible.

Modulators on motorcycles are legal in Washington State. Several companies make such devices; I use modulators and flashers from a company called http://www.signaldynamics.com/. Check availability with your local Seattle, Tacoma, and Bellevue area motorcycle shops and dealers, like Tacoma’s https://www.southsoundmotorcycles.com/, Seattle’s https://www.lakecitypowersports.com/ and https://www.triumphofseattle.com/, the Eastside’s https://www.i-90motorsports.com/,or Lynnwood’s https://motoplex.net/. I like supporting dealers when I can.

As traffic in the greater Seattle-Tacoma and Bellevue areas continues to worsen, we motorcyclists must do all we can to avoid inattentive car and truck drivers. These devices are good step in that direction.

Ride safe!

Kristian