Making the roads safer for motorbike riders

Riders attach lights to the back of their jackets to enable drivers to see them more clearly.Like most Israelis, Rahamim Levi regularly hears about the thousands of people killed in traffic accidents in the country every year. But instead of …

Riders attach lights to the back of their jackets to enable drivers to see them more clearly.Like most Israelis, Rahamim Levi regularly hears about the thousands of people killed in traffic accidents in the country every year. But instead of just listening to news reports, Levi has decided to do something to combat the scourge: He has invented a safety device for motorcycle and motor scooter riders intended to make it easier for the cars behind them to see their turning signals and braking lights.

Levi’s startup, called My Backup, was one of 60 companies chosen to exhibit their ideas at Facing Tomorrow, a conference of world leaders spearheaded by President Shimon Peres that took place in Jerusalem in May.

The safety system, which is expected to cost in the region of $100, consists of a strip of three lights – a red brake light book-ended by yellow turning signals – and devices allowing riders to attach the lights to the back of their helmets or strap them onto the back of their jackets. The system uses wireless technology to synchronize the safety light with the brake and signal lights that come with the vehicle.

“This helps the rider be seen from a distance much better than before,” Levi tells ISRAEL21c. Due to the way the vehicles’ lights are currently set up, even when motorcycle or motor scooter riders put on their blinkers, “you barely see them,” says the 55-year-old former wholesaler from Ramat Gan. “They drive fast, cut in from the right, from the left.”

In 2006, 35,903 people were injured, and 414 killed in traffic accidents in Israel, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. Of the fatalities, seven percent were motorcycle riders, despite the fact that motorbikes comprise only 1.6 percent of the vehicles on the road, according to data from Israel’s Ministry of Transportation.

In the United States, the fatality rate for motorcycles has increased by nearly a third between 1996 and 2005, to 73.5 per 100,000 vehicles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Despite this, however, there has been a 61 percent rise in the number of motorcycles registered in the United States between those years, according to the traffic safety administration, which put the number of motorbikes registered in 2005 at 6.2 million.

Levi attributes this growth, which is also occurring in Israel, to parking difficulties and traffic snarls in large cities. In addition, he notes, those who favor two-wheeled motor vehicles can save money on gas, an increasingly significant incentive as oil prices keep climbing.

“I’m always reading about 400, 500 fatalities a year and thousands of casualties, so I said, ‘Let’s see what I can do I about it,’” says Levi, who is now searching for investors for the company. “This is a product that both saves lives and saves the economy billions of shekels.”

Indeed, the Israeli newspaper Maariv reported this month that traffic accidents in Israel in 2007 cost NIS 20 billion in financial damages.

My Backup is now in trials in Israel. In the near future, My Backup is also working on a similar wireless signaling device for bicycle riders. A security system for a bicycle, says Levi, would involve placing sensors on the handbrakes to enable wireless synchronization.

Levi would like to market the safety device in Israel and abroad, saying he is confident the product will catch on – and save lives.

“Every girlfriend will buy it for her boyfriend,” he predicts. “Every mother will buy it for her son or daughter.”