Rider Safety: See and be Seen

Nov 22, 2014 View Comments by

Rider Safety: See and be SeenEvery time I attend a big motorcycle event in Arizona, I seem to cross paths with Bill Seltzer of TEAM Arizona (www.motorcycletraining.com). It’s not a coincidence. The premier motorcyclist training organization in Arizona is a fixture wherever motorcyclists congregate, and Seltzer is the “voice” of the organization. As a concerned motorcyclist and writer, I gravitate to the information that TEAM Arizona has to offer.

At this year’s Phoenix stop of the Progressive International Motorcycle Show, TEAM Arizona offered the attendees valuable information on motorcyclist vision and visibility and their importance to rider safety. Seltzer’s presentation style on the show’s stage was to engage the audience with questions. So let’s confront this valuable information with the same inquisitive Q and A mode.

Q: What are the key vision and visibility considerations for motorcyclists?
A: To see and to be seen.

Q: What do you mean by “see?
A: S.E.E. represents Search, Evaluate, and Execute. Motorcyclists need to search for hazards on the roadway, dangers created by other motorists, and warnings indicated by established road markings. The rider must then evaluate the danger in the identified hazards (play the “what if?” game). Finally, the motorcyclist must execute maneuvers such as altering speed, changing position, and communicating intentions to other motorists.

Q: What do you mean by “be seen?”
A: It’s the rider’s responsibility to be seen. This starts with riding gear selection (high-visibility) and extends to making sure that the motorcycle’s lighting is operational and effective. The goal is creating an overall plan for maximum visibility.

Q: Why don’t other motorists see motorcycles?
A: Motorcycle Accidents In Depth Study (MAIDS) research show that 69-percent of motorists involved in crashes with motorcycles did not attempt an avoidance maneuver. This suggests they didn’t perceive a motorcycle before the crash. Some of the reasons for this lack of perception are:

Threat Model: We possess an innate fear of bigger objects; for survival purposes, they get our attention.  Motorcycles are smaller than vehicles and pose less of a threat. Thus, the challenge to get the attention of motorists increases.

Selective Attention: People filter out what they deem unnecessary or unimportant, usually without being aware of the filtering process. The brain filters more than 3 million stimuli per minute. Since motorcyclists make up less than two percent of the motoring population, it makes sense that motorists would select stimuli other than motorcycles to focus upon.

Motion Induced BlindnessA phenomenon of visual disappearance or perceptual perceived illusions. Bascially, the mind and eye can be tricked into seeing something that isn’t there or into not seeing something that is.

So those are the key elements that Mr. Seltzer highlighted in terms of rider vision and visibility and why these considerations are vital to motorcyclists. Clearly, every rider will benefit from a review of the rule: see and be seen.

In the next installment of this series, we’ll take a look at what TEAM Arizona had to say about lane positioning and its importance in rider safety.

By Tim Kessel


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