Letter of the Week – from Dan Carter, California

The No Surprise: No Accident rider safety initiative has been getting some interesting mail, by no means restricted to the UK either. Here’s a mail received a couple of days ago from Dan Carter of San Luis Obispo, California, USA. Dan says:

“I came across your website via discussion in a US forum here: ttp://www.msgroup.org/forums/mtt/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=15141

“Your theme–no surprise, no accident–resonates with me because my own view of crashes is the same: Most occur when an ordinary situation takes an unexpected turn. But why does the rider fail to anticipate it? Crashes are a relatively common occurrence, so we’re not talking about a meteor falling from the sky. Rather, the trigger is usually something that motorists are familiar with–a bend tightens, a driver fails to yield right of way, etc. Continue reading

What clues are at accident scenes which will truly determine the causes?


Over many years of responding to motorcycle accidents, I have often wondered how much of the cause information and data extracted from scenes is actually made available to the public.

Of course there are general statements & causal factors and accident statistics that are readily available, but do we ever get the specifics of particular motorcycle accidents and how thoroughly are the root causes investigated.

One of the major problems of road collision investigation is that it rarely looks beyond the immediate cause and contributing factors are not given the prominence they may deserve.

What we need to ask is: :What caused the cause?”

In other transport collision investigations there is much more investigation into root causes and this information is generally disseminated through the user groups & industry…such as in aviation, although thankfully other transport modes tend to see much less frequent requirement for investigation and this is probably why they can invest so much more time on each one. Continue reading

No Surprise features on Idaho STAR newsroom

We’ve been spotted, by the Idaho STAR Program, who wrote on Monday, December 01, 2014:

“Now that December is here, many of us consider the riding season to be essentially over. There may be a few more rides to be had sunny winter days, but for the most part, thoughts turn to ‘next season.’ This month, to get ourselves thinking about how we can make next season a safe one, I’d like to share a blog post from the UK. These folks are taking a unique and (in my opinion) very promising approach to the prevention of motorcycle crashes. If you find the blog post interesting, check out the rest of their site at nosurprise.org.uk.”

The Idaho STAR Motorcycle Safety Program was created in 1994 and began rider training in 1995. STAR is an Idaho Division of Professional-Technical Education program and is accredited by the National Association of State Motorcycle Safety Administrators (SMSA).


IPSGA II – A new paradigm for the use of information in ‘The System’

ipsga II jpeg

For those of you not familiar with I.P.S.G.A or “The System” as it is popularly known it’s the favourite acronym of the advanced riding industry and stands for Information Position Speed Gear Accelerate. It was first devised at the Police College at Hendon over 60 years ago and has formed the core of the Police Rider’s Handbook or Roadcraft since then.

Taking the description of IPSGA straight from Wikipedia;
1. Information received from the outside world by observation, and given by use of signals such as direction indicators, headlamp flashes, and horn; is a general theme running continuously throughout the application of the system by taking, using and giving information;
2. Position on the road optimised for safety, visibility and correct routing, followed by best progress;
3. Speed appropriate to the hazard being approached, attained via explicit braking or throttle control (engine braking), always being able to stop in the distance you can see to be clear on your side of the road;
4. Gear appropriate for maximum vehicle control through the hazard, selected in one shift; and
5. Acceleration for clearing the hazard safely.
The taking, using and giving of Information is, arguably, most important and surrounds (and drives) the five phases IPSGA. It may, and often should, be re-applied at any phase in the System.
The System is used whenever a hazard requires a manoeuvre. A hazard is something which requires a change in speed, direction or both. The benefit of applying a systematic approach to driving is to reduce the simultaneous demands on the vehicle, the driver mentally and the driver physically. That is, the System seeks to separate out the phases of a manoeuvre into a logical sequence so that the vehicle and the driver avoid being overwhelmed by having to do too much at the same time. For example, braking and steering at the same time place greater demands on the vehicle’s available grip and in the worst case can lead to a skid. Continue reading

Useful Websites – Motorcycle Guidelines from IHE

The Institute of Highway Engineers Motorcycling guidelines are an updated version of a set of award-winning guidelines for highways engineers and road safety professionals originally produced in 2005 and aimed at encouraging greater awareness of the needs of powered two-wheelers and effective interventions to improve safety.

The most recent update reflects changes in policy and advances in technology and knowledge.

The Blinding Truth? Or a failure to perceive the real problem?

All the way back on CBT, riders are taught to ‘see and be seen’; to try to put themselves in positions where other drivers have a line of sight with them in it, and to find position where they open up lines of sight into blind areas. That’s not a concept unique to post-test training.

As part of that explanation, new riders are also taught to look for eye contact. It might be a faulty concept (as the ‘Science of Being Seen’ presentation I deliver demonstrates – “he was looking right at me and still pulled out”) but if we can’t see the driver’s eyes then we’re not in his line of vision, and it doesn’t matter whether that’s because he’s looking the other way, because there are pedestrians or a post box on the pavement, or the car’s lined up with the door pillar in the way of his view of the bike. Continue reading

The failure of the DVSA’s hazard perception test to create perceptive drivers

As reported some considerable time ago, the DVSA have been working on replacing the filmed video clips for the hazard perception element of the theory test with computer generated imagery (CGI). It’s taken a while, but the latest news from the agency is that the hazard perception part of the driving theory test is set to be updated with from early next year.

The current filmed video clips are used to test candidates’ reactions to developing hazards on the road, but the DVSA acknowledge that whilst “the scenarios in these clips are still relevant… the image quality isn’t as clear or defined as modern digital technology allows. Continue reading

Complexity made simple.

Multivariate systems only appear to be complex if you don’t understand them. The weather for example seems to be massively complex, but once people understood the heat cycle then how the weather actually worked was no longer a mystery. Same goes for continental drift, germ theory, evolution and a whole raft of other scientific enquiries. The road transport system looks at first glance to be very complex, but once you start to pare it down to its fundamentals it’s not as scary as it first appears.

What the road safety industry has been lacking up ‘til now is a simple theory of road accident causation. Without such a theory or framework all solutions to the accident problem may appear to be valid even though a lot of them are probably without merit. We have stacks of data about the problem, but no theory to determine which bits of data are valid and which are not worth bothering with. Continue reading

Addition to the reading list

Thanks to Malc for reminding me of this particular paper. It’s getting on a little in years now but still asks and attempts to answer some important question.


The study attempts to prove that the accident liability of drivers is not dependent on the type of motor vehicle used and that for the same age and experience the accident levels of twmv riders and car drivers are not very different.Although official statistics on accidents and casualties appear to show that motorcycling is many times more dangerous than car driving, it is believed that these figures overstate the situation. The study examines official and other data in order to judge the matter fairly and makes proposals for future policies that could be followed by both trade and users of twmvs. It is suggested that as there are wide variations of driving behaviour and competance amongst both motorcyclists and car drivers, such variations should be taken into account before conclusions are made. Continue reading