Observations & Hazards

Being able to identify potential hazards as earlier as possible, may well be the most valuable skill a rider can learn. If you can see ahead, predict a hazard and take avoiding action well before the threat reaches you, you will vastly improve your safety. As mentioned before the biggest threats to motorcyclists are other road users. Being aware of them and predicting their actions will significantly reduce your risk of having an accident.

Everyone has a natural ability to identify potential hazards - call it self preservation or whatever, but often when we are focused on a complex task or performing a mundane task, our ability to spot and react to threats is dulled. So what can you do to re-focus your mind?

Training your vision

Searching for clues and better anticipation of potential hazards

You've probably heard the commonly used example: if a ball bounces across the road, you should expect to find a child following it, but what about the less common examples?

Visual Clues

We tend to rely on signaling to identify another vehicle's intentions, but many motorists are not in the habit of giving correct signals or actually believe the rules are different. Ask five motorists what the correct lane and indication is for going straight over, on a two lane roundabout and you'll get at least two different answers. So what other visual clues will help us to decide on another motorists intended actions?

Driver behaviour

The main cause of accidents involving motorcyclists, where another driver is at fault are right of way violations. Typically an approaching vehicle will fail to give way to the motorcycle and pull out. It is such a common mistake (around 90%) that motorcyclists refer to this as being SMIDSY'd (Sorry Mate I Didn't See You) as this is typically the comment that follows when the rider enquires why the driver was so keen to launch them into space. This phenomenon is so common that researchers of driver cognitive behaviour have conducted research and concluded the following:

In addition the process many drivers use for joining a road at a junction, can fool the rider into thinking that they have been seen. Many drivers will focus ahead at the junction, concentrating on braking and changing gear rather than looking for a gap. When they arrive at the give way line they will make their assessment (look right, left, right again and go). To an approaching vehicle it can appear that the emerging vehicle is giving way, only to have them pull out at the last moment.

Key points to remember

There are also plenty of visual clues for the conditions of the road. As well as road signs, the centre lane markings indicate what's ahead (more paint = more danger). If the road is below the land (banked at the verge), look for mud on the road. If it's above the land watch out for cross winds. Trees over hanging, watch for leaves.

Prioritising threats and hazards

Avoiding hazards

Protecting yourself from yourself

Motorcycle observation and hazard perception

Being able to identify potential hazards as earlier as possible, may well be the most valuable skill a rider can learn