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

Deluded about memory decay!

How do we prevent ourselves from being caught out by a series of events that ultimately lead us to having an accident?

Once we have been taught how to do something, then we will never forget how to do it!… Wrong! Anything that has been learnt and requires some conscious thought can be ‘unlearned’, forgotten and even misplaced or misunderstood with the passage of time. Even something so ‘natural’ as speaking can be forgotten if we do not speak for many years. There are plenty of examples of this from forgetting a second language or forgetting foreign words to forgetting a first and only language.

We are kidding ourselves if we believe that we will always remember skills or knowledge without any form of practice, recurrent training and self awareness that we need to brush up on our skills and knowledge. Continue reading

Addition to the reading list

Martin Langham’s PhD thesis offers an alternative to the conventional understanding on why “motorcycles don’t stand out”, which argue that it is the result of poor conspicuity. Langham shows that experienced drivers actually use learned search patterns which are poor at detecting motorcycles close to the driver, when compared with inexperienced riders who haven’t learned these visual search patterns.

An investigation of the role of vehicle conspicuity in the ‘Looked but failed to see’ error in driving – Martin Paul Langham; Thesis presented for Doctor of Philosophy
University of Sussex School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences

Crashing Sucks

by Duncan MacKillop

There’s a strange moment of peace as you sail over the bonnet of the car that’s just pulled out in front of you. You have left the horrible splintering, crunching sound behind leaving just the faint whistle of the wind around your helmet as you begin to contemplate the next few seconds of your existence. You know that from this point on there is absolutely nothing you can do to affect what’s going to happen next and that whatever does happen is going to happen according to the immutable laws of Newtonian physics. I had plenty of time to see that it was the bonnet of a Hillman Avenger that I sailed over in what I eventually learnt was called a SMIDSY, but it was the fast approaching, hard and unforgiving Tarmac in front of me that really caught my attention. When the landing did finally happen it wasn’t what you would call elegant in any way. First to hit with a sickening cracking, crunching sound was my left shoulder followed in short order by the crack of the rather low-tech Stadium helmet I was wearing and then I can’t really remember much after that. Continue reading

A Bike Odyssey – a journey on two wheels

by Kevin Williams

Sometime in August 1975, aged 19, I got mobile.

I’d spent a year out between school and university and cycling to work when the railways were on strike had convinced me there were easier ways to get from A to B than bicycles. With a university place beckoning in central London, I also needed a way of getting around in the city, as well as something cheap to run and easy to park.

A motorcycle was the obvious answer. Continue reading

You don’t have to have an accident!

by Alf Gasparro

Founder of HELI BIKES – Motorcycle Safety Initiative

UK Air Ambulance Pilot

Whilst working at the forefront of prehospital emergency medicine for many years on UK air ambulances, I have responded to hundreds of motorcycle accidents dealing with the full spectrum of injuries, fatalities and causes.

A few realisations gained prominence quite early on in my career and those still remain to this day as I continue to attend regular motorcycle incidents, along with the rest of the emergency services all over the globe! Continue reading

Bikers aren’t bad people

Presentation by Kevin Williams MSc of Survival Skills Rider Training to the National Motorcycle Safety Seminar, Tuesday 16 November



Some years ago, I was waiting for a candidate to come back from the old-style Driving Standards Agency (DSA) motorcycle test when the examiner turned up early minus the trainee. That’s normally a sign the trainee’s lost the examiner (it happens), the bike’s broken down (occasionally) or the bike’s been dropped and is too damaged to ride (not uncommon if it happens during the on-road U turn – the brake or clutch levers can snap off). In this case, he told me that she’d dropped the bike. Continue reading