When it comes to a potential accident scenario, no matter who is at fault, the accident may have been avoided altogether if you used your observational skills a little more. Even if you’re 100% not to blame, if you were observant enough, the whole situation may have been avoided. It’s not just about looking ‘through the corner’, it’s about assessing junctions, approaching them accordingly, preparing for the unexpected and making your observations an important routine rather than just a series of customary looks.
If you can improve your observational skills, you can avoid the majority of accidents, pre-empt potential hazards and allow yourself ample time to deal with almost any situation – it could potentially save your life as well as increase your riding enjoyment too.
Proper observation isn’t just about making an over shoulder check when changing road position, it’s about taking it one step further and absorbing every detail of your surroundings whilst keeping your focus on the road. If you’ve ever ridden a motorcycle, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about but this article is about upgrading the skills you already have, giving you
the eyes of a hawk, enabling you to react as fast as lightning, ultimately allowing you to enjoy your ride to the maximum.
The Rider’s Monologue
Many riders swear by this routine: talking to yourself, describing everything that’s going on around you, guessing potential hazards and suggesting what steps may need to be taken to avoid the hazard in question. They say that talking to yourself could be a sign of madness but what’s crazier: having a little chat with yourself about the dangers of riding or driving without being aware of what’s going on around you?
If you can provide yourself with a private commentary on what’s going on around you and what steps you’re taking to keep your motorcycle under control, you’ll ride in a much safer manner and you’ll end up fine tuning your own riding style to perfection.
Consider taking a ride on a stretch of road that’s relatively quiet and one that you know well and begin talking to yourself, describing exactlywhat’s going on as if you were talking to a blind person. It might sound something like this:
We’re just entering athirtymph zone, the street signs have warned of an approaching speedbumpbecausewe’llbepassingaschool.It’s3.30andtherearekidswalkingalongthepavement, oneofthem maytryand cross the road without looking– I should be prepared for that by lowering my speed and getting prepared to brake suddenly if needed. Okay, we’re past the school with no problems whatsoever; there’s a car behind me and I can see that the driver is looking down, probably texting or something, I should keep my distance. Ahead, I can see a junction to a smaller road; the road signs tell me that I have the priority but let’s not take that for granted. I’ll try and gradually lower my speed, alerting the driver behind to pay attention to the upcoming junction, while I can take a look at what may be coming out of the side road. Fortunately, there’s nothing coming; the road ahead of me is open andIcan increase my speed accordingly, as soon as I’ve passed the ‘30’ sign in a hundred meters time.
You’re probably already doing something relatively similar to this and it’s an incredible safety tool. It makes you more aware and it makes you have to justify your riding style to yourself and check it where necessary. That example was a fairly basic one, illustrating what you may expect on a road that you know. You should still keep doing this, especially on unfamiliar roads but you may have to add different content but your focus should be on everything; even the smallest detail may save your life.
Let’s take a look at what features will certainly demand your attention:
Naturally, you’ll be looking at the road, the way it moves and where it goes but your field of observation should also include these potential warning signals and hazards:
Other Road Users
Again, you should already be aware of the usual suspects, such as cars and the like but you should also be looking through windscreens and assessing the nature of the motorists around you. Check if they’re actually concentrating on what they’re doing – if not, adjust your riding style accordingly. You should also be assessing the speed of each vehicle and paying attention to their movements. Don’t rely on their signals to tell you what their next move may be by reading the cars body language. Aside from cars, you should keep your eyes out for and study the behaviour of:
Side roads – someone may be emerging
Activity going on near the road that could be a potential hazard, such as: o Road works
Even things like sports games, could a stray ball catch you off guard?
Reacting To These Potential Hazards
Now that you’re aware of the potential hazards around you, what are you going to do to deal with them? As soon as you’re aware of a hazard, you should process the information and evaluate how you would deal with the situation and start taking precautionary steps to ensure your safety.
You may need to consolidate or re-evaluate your road position. If a potential hazard could be emerging from the side of the road, it might be wise to move from the centre of your lane towards the middle of the road, providing that it’s safe to do so. If horse rider is approaching
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