Road Safety News

Sharing the road with motorcyclists

Friday 26th June 2015

The second in a series of short road safety messages from GEM Motoring Assist is intended help car drivers successfully share the road with motorcyclists.

GEM says that motorcyclists, like every other road user, “set off with the intention of arriving safely at their destination”.

David Williams MBE, GEM chief executive, said: “You may think that motorcyclists can look after themselves because they’re manoeuvrable and can change lanes quickly and easily.

“However, they are at greater risk for a number of reasons, including other road users not being aware of them, or not appreciating their ability to accelerate rapidly.

“By ‘thinking bike’ on every journey, and by committing to a courteous driving style at all times, we will play our part in making the roads safer – for ourselves and for motorcyclists, who are 75 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured in collisions than car drivers.”

GEM's five tips to promote safety for drivers and motorcyclists are:

• Remember above all that everyone on the road is trying to get somewhere safely, even if it doesn’t always seem that way. So maintain a defensive attitude, avoid conflict and competition.

• Good observation is key, especially at junctions. Take more time to look for motorcyclists when you’re approaching a junction or pulling out onto a busy main road. After all, motorcyclists can be much harder to see.

• Check your blind spot before moving lane. Motorcyclists move faster than you might expect, so it’s always good to double-check.

• If there’s a motorcyclist behind you, anticipate that he or she will probably want to overtake. Make the manoeuvre as easy and safe as possible by moving slightly to the nearside. This tells riders you’ve seen them and you want to help them stay safe.

• Think bike even after your journey has ended. Just check it’s safe to open your door and that you won’t be putting an approaching rider at risk.


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From a biker of 40+ years experience I find a lot of the accidents caused by cars involving motorcycles is due to the driver failing to make their last observation before manoeuvring to the right. Looking right then left is not good enough because it should be look to the right, left then right again or at least left then right before moving. Another is giving adequate warning using indicators. Many car drivers indicate at the same time or just fractions of a second before manoeuvring. Only a few days ago I was nearly knocked off when after following a car for a while I decided to pass him as he was stopping so often to give way (as he should) he was holding me up, so I made a safe overtake on his right when he suddenly turned right without any warning to pull into a convenience shop. He never indicated or if he did it was when I had already made the overtake which was way to late for me to react and would not see his indicator when passing him. Luckely we just missed but it was close. He saw me following for some time so why didnt he make sure he gave me adequate warning knowing I would look to get past him when I could.
Jon, huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

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I have to say that I am pleased that GEM has done this. I wrote to them some time ago suggesting that drivers have little or no idea of what happens on a motorcycle and why the rider does what he does. At least one safety organisation is listening to the general public. Well done. I wish it would be copied in other car magazines so that such matters should be brought to the attention of their readers.
Bob Craven Lancs....Space is Safe Campaigner.

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I can't understand someone who would argue that its better to take the easier way and stand the consequences of a one million to one gamble of being wrong. Then multiply that figure with the number of possible situations that can go wrong on every single day on the road where that option was used one may say that its 1 million times every day or even more.

It's no wonder incidents happen with such inevitable frequency if everyone took the easy was out, the gamble, and disregarded safer advice of looking and never being surprised. The world would be a much safer place if option 2 were to be adopted.
Bob Craven Lancs .... Space is Safe Campaigner.

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System 2 though is slow and effortful so it has a high cognitive cost in comparison to leaving things up to System 1. Out on the roads, System 1 is usually right so we tend to rely on it rather than engaging in unneccessary cognitive strain by invoking System 2.

If we were to rely on System 2 thinking whilst driving we would be unable to get the car out of the drive because of all the variables that need to be expensively evaluated before we do. Much better to leave it all up to Systyem 1 and take the million to one gamble that it might occasionally get things wrong.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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Duncan’s link to Khaneman’s book review by Leo Sadovy was interesting from the fact that the initial ‘system1’ – rapid evaluation process done by the brain with little voluntary action – is just the reason why so many accidents occur where SMIDSY (Sorry Mate, I Didn’t See You) is claimed. Looking rapidly, with an expectation that on average there may be nothing ‘in the box’, is just how so many accidents happen. The road scenario is not an empty box. It is filled with things that – like the magician's hat - may appear as if from nowhere. System 2 as is described, takes longer for an evaluation, and ultimately is closer to a safer way of appraising a situation. More time is needed to do that. In most cases, .4 of a second is not enough, hence possibly, the ‘disagrees’. In a combat situation system 1 may be a life saver. On the roads, it may have the opposite effect. Because as Leo Sadovy states in his last short sentence: “WYS is not always ATI”.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

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That would be true Hugh were it not for something called WYSIATI or what you see is all there is. This is why we need to understand brains in order to understand why perception based road accidents happen.

Details here.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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Whilst an enmpty road might be easy to perceive at a glance Duncan, a road with approaching vehicles on it - which might obscure motorcycles - takes longer to study. That is what GEM are - fairly obviously I would have thought - actually promoting.
'Think once, think twice, think bike' was and is one of the better slogans and still holds true.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Strange that four people disagreed with my statement that it only takes .4 of a second to see 'nothing'. Look into an empty box and the fact that it's empty is instantly revealed, look down an empty road and the fact it too is empty is also instantly revealed. It's one of the quirks of human perception in that the brain quickly needs to work out that it's looking at 'nothing' so that it can divert attention to look for something else. Cars tend to pull out into gaps, spaces and empty roads which of course indicate the presence of nothing, not something.

Elaine is perfectly correct with her statement that the average perception/reaction time is about 1.5 seconds, but the no perception/no reaction time is less than a third of that. The human brain learnt at a very early age that only magicians can make something appear out of nothing because thanks to the laws of physics that simply cannot happen in the real-world can it? We carry this knowledge everywhere we go and yet we are being asked to spend more time looking at nothing just in case something (a bike for example) might magically appear.

No matter how well-meaning the advice from GEM actually is it is fatally flawed because of a perceptual shortcoming that we all experience every time we encounter nothing at all!
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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This is sound advice for all road users not just CAR drivers. However, as happens frequently with motoring organisations, GEM has put this information for CAR drivers in the MOTORCYCLES section on their website.
Peter Swanwick, Southend-on-Sea

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More than 1.5 of a second, which is the typical perception/reaction time prior to a collision.
Elaine, Northern Ireland

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Spend as long as it takes until you're absolutetly sure, is what I presume GEM are saying i.e. more than just a cursory glance, which may not be enough. If it sometimes takes several seconds to check before emerging, so be it. Best to be safe than sorry.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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I think GEM are promoting good advice with their five bullet points. A blink of an eye might take .4 of a second, and I usually take longer to look than that. What's a couple of seconds worth to ensure safety? Apart from the built in blind spots most cars have, one of the most frustrating blind spots can be the frames of spectacles.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

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Currently it takes me .4 of a second to work out that nothing's coming so even though I 'know' nothing's coming GEM are saying I should still keep looking just in case? How much more time should I take then to look for motorcyclists so that I can guarantee to see them?
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

Agree (3) | Disagree (9)