I See You! Do You See Me?

Many of the accidents involving motorcycles are often ‘explained’ by either the rider or more commonly by the driver of a vehicle stating: “I didn’t see you!”

Which then has morphed into the SMIDSY – Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You! which is most usually considered at junctions but actually can be considered for many accidents.

For a rider, the ability to view hazards and anticipate other vehicle movements in an integral component of rider safety and one of the greatest tools in the rider’s arsenal is to be able to judge what a vehicle is likely to do and whether the driver has noticed the rider and is making allowances for the path of that rider.

Some common accidents where the driver did not see the rider are:

Vehicle emerging from a side junction into the path of a motorcycle. 

Vehicle swapping lanes or overtaking another vehicle whilst side swiping a rider in the offside or nearside blind spot.

Vehicle turning off into a side junction on the offside. ( Turning right: UK etc, Turning Left: Europe, USA), whilst motorcycle is overtaking.

Vehicle turning off into a side junction on the nearside. ( Turning Left: UK etc, Turning Right: Europe, USA) whilst a motorcycle proceeds to overtake from a blind spot. A Vehicle waiting from the same side junction, emerges and then collides with the motorcycle.

Vehicle turning across a rider’s path whilst taking an exit to a side junction. More commonly where (in the UK a rider rides on the left and an oncoming vehicle turns to their right,offside into a right hand junction and collides with the rider…or Europe/USA a rider riding on the right and a vehicle turns left across the rider’s path into a left junction.

Driver of a vehicle suddenly opening their driver’s door in the path of a rider and the motorcycle collides with the door. Usually where the rider has been riding closely to parked or stationary vehicles.

For the rider, the objective should always be to determine whether in fact a driver has actually noticed or seen the motorcycle movement, and not be so concerned whether the driver ‘should’ have seen the rider or motorcycle. When riders use the ‘SHOULD’ logic, they are placing all of the responsibility of their safety in the hands of the other road users.

Any rider should approach each driver or traffic situation with a method of interrogating the other road users in a non verbal communication manner, which may mean a nod of the head or the wave of a hand, or a raising of the finger…but one of the most useful methods is to establish eye contact and the monitor the vehicle movements or watch for wheel movements.

When approaching a vehicle from behind, it is always good practice to monitor whether the driver of the vehicle in front has seen you in their mirrors…are they looking in their mirrors? This may lead the rider to maintain a greater distance behind or when overtaking to give a wide berth and not stay in a blind spot. Gradually moving the motorcycle and changing position may actually draw the attention of the driver…which may be a good thing.

When approaching a vehicle that is waiting at a side junction to emerge, try to establish eye contact. Has the driver seen the rider’s gaze, are they looking in the rider’s direction. If they are not then the rider cannot determine whether they have seen the motorcycle. The rider should move to the centre of the road away from the mouth of the junction and continue to establish eye contact, possibly even slowing down until the rider is certain the driver has seen the motorcycle and will not emerge into the rider’s path.

When approaching an oncoming vehicle, always monitor the vehicle position on the road, whether there is an indication of not. If the vehicle seems as if it is in a position to turn across the rider’s path, then try to establish eye contact, look for early movements of the vehicle, position the motorcycle to the nearside away from the oncoming vehicle and reduce speed and cover the brakes and prepare to stop.

By establishing and maintaining eye contact, the rider is alerting the driver that the motorcycle is in the vicinity and or is approaching.

Whenever a rider approaches another vehicle or is monitoring the movements of another vehicle, it is worthwhile in brushing up on the ‘detective skills’ By this I mean trying to gather as much information about the other road user in order to help to determine how that driver may act.

For example: A vehicle with foreign or out of state plates may mean that the driver is unfamiliar with the local roads. This may mean the driver may indicate late for a turning or their speed and road position may fluctuate significantly as they find their way. In any case it would be wise to keep your distance behind or when overtaking.

Is the driver distracted in any way? Are they on their phone or being distracted by rear seat passengers/children or being distracted by something externally e.g. another road accident. Any of these and more can cause the driver of this vehicle to drive erratically and not notice the rider, so it is important that the rider keep a safe distance and give a wide berth wherever possible.

Judging traffic flow and the intentions of other drivers is a complex task, but with practice, looking for the obvious tell tale signs and establishing eye contact will be a good strategy to adopt, and if ever in doubt then increase the distance between the rider and driver, reduce speed and always be prepared to take avoiding action either by steering or braking.

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