5 ways to avoid an accident

There is no such thing as an accident there is always a cause and to believe that there isn’t means you surrender to some unseen deity who ordains the occurrence of  accidents.  It is why they are more correctly referred to as collisions.  An academic will tell you 3 elements have to be present for a collision to occur; speed, surprise and a lack of space.

“I was coming down the hill and all of a sudden this guy came out of the junction.  I braked as hard as i could but there was just nowhere to go so i hit him.”

All we need to do is remove just one of those elements to avoid a collision.

Speed

It is safe to travel at 500 mph as long as you are in an aeroplane.  On a motorcycle a safe speed is one at which we can stop in the distance we can see to be clear on our side of the road, in any event less than the speed limit.

“I was coming down the hill and i noticed a car coming along the bottom road so i rolled off.  He pulled out in front of me and I had to brake hard.”

There is always a correct speed to be travelling and it changes every day, even when we ride a familiar route, as road conditions and our performance varies.

Space

Humans have no exoskeleton to cocoon us, unlike many of our fellow road users, so we see risk very differently.   Motorcyclists have to continually work to build our safety bubble out of thin air around us. The consequences for a car driver might be the inconvenience of filling out claim forms, it can be life changing for us.

So maintaining the 2 second rule and careful road positioning are literally life skills.

“We were following this guy in front down the hill and and when the car pulled out, he stood no chance.  I had to brake to avoid hitting them as well.”

Surprise

But the greatest of these 3 elements and arguably the easiest to remove is that of surprise.  Don’t be surprised

“We were coming down the hill and I noticed a car coming along the bottom road.  I wasn’t sure exactly what it was, but I thought something was not quite right so I rolled off and gave myself a bit more time.  There was no surprised when he pulled out without really looking.”

..take your pick of…

”I’d seen people pull out there without really looking before.”

“This time of year the hedge rows..”

“That time of day the sun is really low so..”

“He just did not seem to be slowing like the others..”

“He seemed to be in a rush..”

Careful Observation

We can only avoid collisions and avoid being surprised if we notice what is going on around us.

Seems obvious but there is a big difference between looking and seeing.  Indeed we are not limited to seeing when we have the other senses hearing, touch, taste.  However, our primary sense when riding is sight. We see in 2 dimensions (light falling on our retinas) but we construct a 3 dimensional world in our head.

Our brain will construct a 3 dimensional world from what we expect to be there, someone may look left and right at a junction but if they only expect there to be trucks, buses and cars they will not register the motorbike or bicycle.  Similarly with ourselves so much of what we see is coloured by what we expect to see.  We have to actively scan and notice things not just the familiar, but crucially the discrepancies. This Careful Observation is not an innate ability but a skill, one that requires our complete attention that we constantly work to develop.

Early anticipation & Planning

Carefully observing a complex dynamic system like the public highway means little unless we make plans and actively work to ensure our safety.

Just like the myriad of possible futures we cannot run all the possible combinations of what may happen, we just don’t have the bandwidth. Riders must therefore anticipate what is most likely to happen and build our plans around this.  Our safety depends on how well we anticipate what may happen and how good our plans to deal with this are.

But there is no certainty so we need to consider a range of possible outcomes and develop plans that are successful for a range of outcomes favouring plans for their flexibility and constantly update the plan as new information becomes available.  This represents a high workload for the brain so it needs to be focused exclusively on the task at hand and given a chance to do its best work housed in a fit, rested, fed, watered, dry, warm body.

As the saying goes;

Motorcycling in of itself is not dangerous but is brutally unforgiving of a lack of skill or inattentiveness.

So you need to aim for that motorcycling zen state of being hyper aware, relaxed yet 100% focused on the task at hand actively making and updating your plans to remain safe.

Your life is in your hands.

Caution: plagiarism here is rife many of these words and phrases come directly from your instructors own bible; Motorcycle Roadcraft A Police Riders Handbook ISBN: 978-0117081888.

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