Project: Motorcyle Rear Vision

Reference: S0904/V3

Last update: 06/04/2010 09:49:15


To estimate whether an improved regulation for motorcycle rear vision would be beneficial in reducing accidents by carrying out the following:

. a literature review looking at previous work on improving motorcycle rear vision and addressing mirror vibration;

. a review of accident statistics and studies to identify the number of injury accidents where poor rear vision could have been a contributory factor and provide an estimate of the annual cost of these accidents;
(The methodology developed in TRL document PPR 381 - "Development of a methodology for the evaluation of safety systems for powered two-wheelers" outlined in 2.2 above, may assist this task)

. a compilation of existing national and international standards for rear visibility, highlighting those that have specific provisions for motorcycles. This should include a comparison with the current regulation and the estimated affect on rear vision performance.


Motorcycle traffic in 2007 was 44% greater than the 1994-1998 average baseline, with people turning to motorcycles to beat congestion and for leisure. However, motorcyclists are at a much greater risk of death or serious injury than other road users. In 2006, the relative risk of a motorcycle rider being killed or seriously injured per kilometre travelled was 52 times higher than that of a car driver. Motorcyclists currently account for 19% of all road traffic deaths.

In 2005 the Government published a motorcycling strategy that set out to identify and address the many issues and challenges that motorcycling raises, in particular the safety of the rider. Improved rider safety through enhanced vehicle legislation and subsequent design improvements are of paricular interest.

In the autumn of 2006, the technical sub-group of the National Motorcycling Council (NMC) conducted a survey of motorcyclists. The survey provided evidence to support and inform the work of the group .Of those who responded, 58% identified insufficient rear vision and mirror vibration as an issue, with sports bikes causing the largest number of concerns. The survey also revealed that 40% of the participants had tried to improve the performance of the original equipment mirrors by modification or by fitting a different type. This suggests that in some instances the current minimum rear vision requirement permits mirrors which offer unsatisfactory rear vision for many riders.

This research project will provide an estimation of the number of accidents involving motorcycles where insufficient rear vision, caused by poor rear view mirrors, could have been a contributory factor. An overall cost estimation for these accidents is to be included.
It is intended that the conclusions derived from this research will enable the Department to establish whether there would be a safety benefit for motorcyclists if the minimum rear field of view afforded by motorcycle mirrors was improved.

Motorcycles that are sold in the UK must be fitted with mirrors that comply with the installation requirements laid out in an EC Directive or a UNECE Regulation but the technical scope is considered to be limited. Based on the findings of the rider survey, this research project will also include a review of the content of existing regulations, standards and related literature.


Lynnfield House, Chrurch Street , Altrincham, Cheshire, WA14 4DZ

Contract details

Cost to the Department: £29,943.95

Actual start date: 01 October 2009

Actual completion date: 28 February 2010


Review of Motorcycle Rear Vision Legislation
Author: Rachel Grant, Sharon Cook, Keith Clemo
Publication date: 06/04/2010
Source: VSRC

Summary of results

  1. The objective of this research project was to investigate the issues associated with motorcycle rear vision and the performance of mirrors and the requirements for rear mirrors in the current technical standards.
    The activities in the study included a Literature, Accident Data and Internet Review, a Knowledge Review carried out by consultation with Stakeholders and a Standards Regulatory and Technical Developments Review.
    The review of published information did not indicate that motorcycle rear vision and mirror performance is the problem for motorcycles (in terms of limited or obstructed field of view or blindspot problems) that it is for other vehicle types.
    From the consultations it was clear that rear vision is considered to be an important component of safe riding but unlike the mirrors on vehicles with bodywork, motorcycle mirrors appear to be an aid to rearward vision and are used more in conjunction with looking over the shoulder. It was generally suggested that motorcycle mirrors are used to provide awareness of more distant traffic approaching from behind whilst a glance over the shoulder is used to give awareness of closer vehicles and, as a 'lifesaver' check, to confirm the absence of vehicles behind prior to manoeuvres such as overtaking and turning.
    It would appear that this combination, together with the training of new riders and the conscientiousness of more experienced riders, works reasonably well as the review of published accident data did not identify poor rear vision as being a significant accident causation factor in powered two-wheeler (PTW) accidents, and where data did indicate that poor rear vision was a factor its contribution to the accident statistics was small.
    However, the consultations confirmed that some riders (and particularly young and inexperienced riders) may not use their mirrors often enough, the view from some mirrors may not be as good as it could be (mainly due to obscuration by the rider's arm and body) and some mirrors give a distorted image due to vibration. Suggestions were made as to how improvements could be achieved and some support was given to the improvement of the poorer examples of mirror design and performance.
    The review of standards provided an insight into the current requirements for motorcycle mirrors and identified some possible improvements that might be made in order to achieve better mirror performance in the future.
    New technologies may have a role to play in improving rear vision of PTWs but careful consideration must be given to the design, installation and safety implications.
    Several other suggestions to improve rear vision and rear mirrors are made, including:
    The use of computer simulation and virtual testing,
    The development of a rear vision/mirror rating scheme,
    Mirror 'fitting' at motorcycle dealers (to suit the rider),
    Specific education and training materials for 'at risk' groups.