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Motorcycle conspicuity: $10 phrase for basic precautions

The record for motorcycle accidents in Texas is not as good as it might be. As we noted in a previous post, while the trend in 35 states was downward in 2013, Texas motorcycle fatality rates increased.

It is because of this that the state Department of Public Safety puts a lot of effort into trying to improve motorcycle safety awareness. As fundamental an issue as this is, sometimes the agency seems to reach a bit when choosing what words to use to get the message across.

For example, if you check out the online offering of the DPS Motorcycle Operator's Manual, you'll find one bold banner that talks about "increasing conspicuity." Do you know what that means? We suspect that the definition might be lost on some readers, so we offer a bit of a translation here.

When someone has conspicuity it means he or she is conspicuous. In even simpler terms, it means they are eye-catching, noticeable or obvious. And being more visible is a good thing for anyone who rides a motorcycle, moped, scooter or even bicycle. The reason is because in the wake of crashes with motorcyclists, other drivers regularly say they just didn't see the motorcycle.

Motorcycles offer a much smaller profile than most other vehicles on the road and so it might be easy to appreciate that they could be overlooked in favor of the greater threat of other cars or trucks. Driver depth perception can also be thrown off by a motorcycle, which could lead drivers to make unsafe maneuvers.

So, to increase visibility -- conspicuity -- motorcyclists are encouraged to wear bright clothing. Fluorescent camo might make a fashion statement. It could also be life saving. Alternatively, a bright orange, yellow, red or green vest might be worn. A bright colored helmet is recommended, as well.

The key is to be obvious.

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