TEAM Arizona Riding Tip September 2013: Overriding Your Headlight

September 9, 2013 Tags: ,

With the heat in Arizona this time of year, motorcyclists are more likely to ride at night.  Night riding presents its own sets of challenges, and in particular, overriding your headlight is one challenge that could result in an unsuccessful ride.  This challenge can be reduced by remembering a few key elements.


What do we mean by overriding your headlight?  This occurs when your total stopping distance exceeds your sight distance.  Total stopping distance includes the time it takes to perceive a hazard, react to that hazard, and the time it takes the bike to come to a stop.  Not being able to see far enough ahead means that hazards can lurk beyond the beam of our headlights.  Possibly the best way to understand this situation is through an example.

Overriding Headlight

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends we have a four second safety margin to perform a hazard avoidance maneuver like stopping.  So let’s say you’re traveling at 60 mph, or 88 feet per second.  At four seconds, you would cover a distance of 352 feet.  To put that in perspective, in the time it would take you to stop at 60 mph, you would cover a distance equal to a FOOTBALL FIELD!

With this information, we need to ask ourselves, can we see an entire FOOTBALL FIELD ahead when riding at night if we’re traveling at 60 mph?  If the answer is no, what can we do?


There are some simple measures we can immediately take to increase our safety at night:

  • Motorcycle HeadlightSlow down
    • Revisiting our example above, simply by reducing your speed from 60 to 50 mph, you could reduce your total stopping distance by more than 50 feet.
    • If you’re unfamiliar with the area . . . slow down more!
  • Use hi-beam when possible (make sure not to affect oncoming traffic)
  • Make sure your headlight is adjusted properly
  • Clean your headlights (scratching and an unclean headlight can reduce headlight effectiveness by more than 30%)
  • Upgrade your current headlight with higher performing halogen lamps, an HID system, or LED system.
  • Add lighting to your vehicle to enhance your ability to see
  • Keep your eye protection clean to maximize the distance you can see
  • Make sure your vision is tip-top (when was the last time you had your vision checked?)
  • Use the lights of other vehicles in front of you to increase your ability to see farther aheadOverriding Headlight
  • Ride in areas with greater street lighting
  • Avoid wearing any dark tinted eye protection
  • Make sure your hazard avoidance skills are up to the task (consider our Braking practice session on October 15, 2013)
  • Worse comes to worse, avoid riding at all.

Ultimately, the challenge of overriding our headlight is well within our ability to overcome.  We just need to be aware of its existence and its solutions.

Do you have a story about when you faced this challenge?  If so, we’d love to read about it on the TEAM Arizona Facebook page.

Have fun and ride safe!

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