Table of contents

Motorcycle visibility

Staying safe means being visible. Since motorcycles are smaller than most vehicles, they can be difficult to see on roadways and in parking lots. Make yourself visible on a motorcycle by following these 5 steps.

  1. Wear reflective tape - Place reflective tape around your wheel rims and on any part of your motorcycle that is closest to a light source. At night, reflective tape will make your motorcycle look like a bigger vehicle.
  2. Wear bright safety gear - You are just as visible as your bike when you're on the road. Wearing high visibility jackets and helmets like orange, yellow and white will instantly draw other motorists' eyes to you.
  3. Ride a bright bike - A brightly-coloured motorcycle increases your chance of being noticed by other motorists. Riding a black or darkly coloured bike makes it harder for drivers to see you.
  4. Avoid blind spots - Whether you are driving on the highway or parking, always position yourself where other drivers can see you. Motorcycles can be difficult for drivers to see in their rear-view mirrors. Find a lane position where you can be seen by all cars on the road.
  5. Use your brakes - If another vehicle is following you too closely or you are concerned that they are not slowing down fast enough behind you, tap your brakes. By doing so, your brakes will act like a giant blinker light warning other motorists of your location and distance from theirs.

Helmets

Helmet law

In Alberta, all drivers and passengers on a motorcycle must wear a helmet. The penalty for not wearing a helmet is $155.

The only exception is for a rider/passenger who is 18 years or older and is a bona fide member of the Sikh religion who wears a turban.

For more information, see Vehicle and helmet exemptions.

Helmet standards

Your helmet must meet the standards for motorcycle safety helmets. Look for a mark or label for one of the following:

  • CSA Standard CAN3-D230-M85, Protective Headgear in Motor Vehicle Applications
  • DOT Standard No. 218; Motorcycle helmets under Part 571.218 of the Code of Federal Regulations (United States), Title 49
  • British Standards Institution (BSI) Standard BS 6658: 1985, Specification for protective helmets for vehicle users
  • Snell Memorial Foundation 2000, 2005, or 2010 Standard For Protective Headgear, For Use with Motorcycles and Other Motorized Vehicles
  • United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Regulation 22-05, Uniform provisions concerning the approval of protective helmets and their visors for drivers and passengers of motorcycles and mopeds

Types of helmets

Remember that your head, face, and chin experience the biggest impact if you get into a collision. Lighter coloured helmets are more visible to other motorists. Replace a helmet that has been damaged, and avoid buying a used one. A used helmet may have been involved in a crash and could be damaged in ways that are not obvious.

  • Full Coverage Helmets (recommended): a full coverage helmet provides the best protection for your entire head by protecting the top, sides, and back of your skull as well as your lower face and chin. The face shield also protects you from weather and airborne objects.
  • 3/4 Coverage Helmets: a 3/4 coverage helmet has an open face, so only protects the top, sides, and back of your head. It does not protect your lower face and chin. Unless a face shield is added, you will also not be protected from weather or airborne objects.
  • 1/2 Coverage Helmets: a 1/2 coverage helmet has limited head protection as it only protects the top and some of the sides and back of the skull. It does not protect the base of your skull or your ears, face, and chin. It also will not protect you from weather or airborne objects.

Body gear

Having the right equipment can help keep you safe. Along with an approved motorcycle helmet, it is recommended that every rider wear:

  • shatter-proof eye protection
  • a durable, brightly coloured jacket
  • long pants
  • leather footwear that protects the ankles
  • full fingered, non-slip gloves
  • rain and cold weather
  • riding clothes

Eye protection

Full coverage helmets offer the best protection for your eyes. A plastic, shatter-resistant face shield will help cover your face from wind, dust, dirt, rain, insects and rocks. If your helmet does not have a shield, consider purchasing eyewear specifically designed to protect your eyes when riding. Goggles can be worn over prescription glasses if necessary.

Ear protection

Noise from air passing around your head while riding can make you tired and cause permanent hearing loss. Purchase earplugs to use while riding, especially on highways where there are higher speed limits.

Jacket and pants

Your safest option is choose jackets and pants that cover your torso, arms, and legs completely with nothing that can flap in the wind. Since you can be harder to see on a motorcycle, a brightly coloured jacket helps with visibility. Sturdy leather or similar material designed for riding offers the best protection, whereas denim can easily wear out in the event of an accident.

Boots and footwear

Make sure that your footwear:

  • covers your ankles
  • is made of leather or a similar material
  • has strong and durable soles to prevent your feet from slipping
  • has short enough heels that they will not catch on surfaces or controls
  • has the laces tucked in while you ride so that they do not catch on your motorcycle

Gloves

Wear gloves that are thin enough to grip and use your controls, but thick enough to protect your hands in a crash. Leather or a similar material is best. When your gloves are on, they should cover your wrists and overlap the sleeves of your jacket. Make the switch to seasonal gloves as the weather gets colder.

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