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Old 09-12-2013, 07:15 AM   #1
DataDan
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Hidden Hazards

These two findings from the Hurt report help explain each other:
  • The typical motorcycle accident allows the motorcyclist just less than two seconds to complete all collision avoidance action.

  • The view of the motorcycle or the other vehicle involved in the accident is limited by glare or obstructed by other vehicles in almost half of the multiple vehicle accidents.
In many crashes, the rider has little time to take evasive action because the view between rider and driver is blocked. Neither can see the other until it is too late and the collision becomes inevitable.

Hurt describes how view obstruction contributed to one crash he investigated:
A motorcycle is proceeding in the curb lane and a van is travelling ahead in the parallel fast lane. Approaching an intersection, another automobile in oncoming traffic waits until the van clears and turns left as it passes. The left-turning automobile then moves into the right-of-way of the motorcycle. In such case, the culpability is clearly that of the automobile driver but both the motorcyclist and automobile driver had view obstruction (the van) before the crash.
The motorcycle was behind and one lane to the right of the van--in a "visual shadow" where the driver of the oncoming car couldn't see it and the rider couldn't see the car. The car turned as soon as the van had passed and hit the motorcycle.

It is important for motorcyclists to understand these situations because driving experience doesn't prepare us for them. Unlike a car, a motorcycle's speed, size, and agility can make it go unseen. By understanding how the motorcycle can disappear in a sea of larger vehicles, we can take action to keep the view clear, or to protect ourselves in spite of a poor view.


The many ways view can be obstructed

Hurt's example of the motorcycle in the shadow of a screening vehicle is just one way the view between rider and driver can be blocked. There are more, and they account for a surprising number of crashes. A few examples:
  • Westbound in the #2 lane of an undivided four-lane road, a motorcyclist was in a hurry to get past a vehicle in the #1 because the two lanes merge 200 yards ahead. But before the merge, a left-turn pocket allows eastbound vehicles to reach a farm on the right. As the rider passed the other westbound vehicle at high speed, an oncoming pickup turned left and the two collided. At night on the unlit road, the pickup driver saw only two headlights--those of the vehicle in the #1--and he turned a safe distance in front of it. But then the third headlight suddenly appeared in the #2 lane, and he couldn't avoid the crash.

  • In a busy suburban area, vehicles in the two left lanes had stopped at an uncontrolled intersection to keep it clear, and an oncoming pickup driver took advantage of the opening and turned left. But in the free-flowing #3 lane, a motorcycle entered the intersection at normal speed and was hit by the pickup. Stopped traffic in the two left lanes had blocked the view between rider and driver.

  • In the #1 lane (of two), a motorcyclist passed an SUV in the #2 as it turned into a shopping center on the right. At the same time, a car exiting the shopping center turned left in front of the motorcycle and hit it. The SUV had screened the view between rider and driver.

  • Entering a freeway, a motorcyclist merged into the #4 lane behind a box truck, then merged into the #3. But traffic in the #3 was moving much slower, and he rear-ended another vehicle. The truck in the #4 had blocked his view to stalled traffic in the #3.

  • In the #2 lane (of two) behind a car that slowed for no apparent reason, a motorcyclist merged left and passed. But the driver was stopping for pedestrians crossing in mid-block, whom the rider hadn't seen. He crashed under braking, and the motorcycle slid into the pedestrians. The car had blocked the rider's view to the pedestrians.

Recognizing problem situations

At first, these crashes may seem impossible to avoid. You're just riding along, and out of nowhere a car pulls out in front of you. But by recognizing certain cues, you can spot the situation before it becomes critical.
  • Point of sudden exposure. Paralleling a line of stopped vehicles, or at a higher speed than adjacent traffic, you are protected from cross-traffic incursions as long as the line is tightly packed. But when you overtake the lead vehicle, you may suddenly be exposed to cross traffic. And it doesn't have to be a long line; even one car can block the sightline at a critical time. This can also occur when splitting lanes in city traffic if drivers are keeping an intersection open for cross traffic.

  • Stationary gap. In a snarl of city traffic, there will be gaps between stopped vehicles. Most gaps are random, but sometimes a driver will leave extra space to accommodate a pedestrian or cyclist. As you cross a gap, whether occupying your own lane or splitting, you can be exposed to a person crossing unexpectedly.

  • Lost blocker. When you are paralleling another vehicle at the same speed, it blocks incursions--whether you are purposely taking advantage of it or not. A driver on the opposite side may not see you, but you're protected from the threat thanks to the vehicle running interference. However, if your blocker unexpectedly slows to pull off the road or turn at a cross street, you will be exposed to threats from that side.

Reacting to the danger

Hurt suggests an overall strategy to prevent crashes where the view is screened:
These findings [on view obstructions] provide important components for a traffic strategy for a motorcycle rider. The motorcycle rider must locate himself (or herself) in traffic to insure a clear path of view to all prospective hazards. If such a location is not possible, every intersection offers the possible challenge of the motorcycle right-of-way.
And in the example of the motorcycle in the visual shadow of the van he recommends:
The strategy appropriate for the motorcycle rider is to ride abreast, or ahead, or much farther behind the van so that he (or she) could see and be seen. The strategic position is important to insure a clear view of prospective challenges of right-of-way and high conspicuity should increase the likelihood of being seen.
To see and be seen in other situations, different tactics are needed:
  • When you spot a point of sudden exposure, go to yellow alert: slow down and approach cautiously. This is a critical reaction to avoid a crash with an unseen vehicle. Your view to potential threats is screened, and you're nearing a point where you have no parallel lane of blocking vehicles.

  • Use a blocker. When you've identified a threat such as an oncoming vehicle waiting to turn left, use a blocker if one is nearby--stay alongside a vehicle between you and the threat and match its speed. But if you suddenly lose a blocker--especially one you can't see over around, or through--expect an incursion.

  • Keep relative speed down. In some situations, you may prefer to ride slightly faster than the prevailing flow of traffic. By going slightly faster you avoid lingering in blind spots and reduce threats from behind. But excessive speed relative to traffic increases the risk due to unseen cross-traffic hazards by reducing the time and space you have to identify and react to an incursion.

  • Don't tailgate. Proper following distance not only prevents rear-end crashes, it also opens the sightline to traffic further ahead, which can prevent cross-traffic incursions. A little extra distance can improve your view to potential threats and their view to you--especially behind a large vehicle. Follow the two-second rule, and at lower speeds increase that if you can.

  • Adjust lane position to improve your view to cross traffic. The farther you are from an adjacent lane, the better the angle of view through it to cross traffic on that side. Of course, a better view to one side means a worse view to the other, so consider threats on both sides when necessary.


In many crashes where view is obstructed, as Hurt said, "the culpability is clearly that of the automobile driver." But to survive as a motorcyclist you must accept full responsibility for your own survival, because it is you, not the Ford F-350 driver, whose life is on the line. By increasing your awareness of hidden hazards, you will be able to identify these situations as they develop and take action to protect yourself.
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Old 09-12-2013, 09:02 AM   #2
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Use a blocker, I call use something big to run interference for me..

I know same thing..I just like my thoughts better..And I do it all the time..It is so easy.

Also In deer country, I'll Have a vehicle (I'll find a fast one) to be running interference, in front of me...And not just for deer, for that other danger that can have a light bar and a ticket book, as well.
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Old 09-12-2013, 09:32 AM   #3
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"blockers" do not work in deer country, as i have seen many a deer run between cages on the rd.

and trying to stay behind a larger item on the rd is a false security.
i had a speeding fool swerve cause he was scarred of the truck i was behind
he hit me head-on. just glad i was in a heavy duty truck at that time.
if on a bike i would have been killed.

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Old 09-12-2013, 09:58 AM   #4
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^^^ The way I do it works...There could very well be a difference in how we do it.
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Old 09-14-2013, 08:44 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by DataDan View Post

The many ways view can be obstructed
  • In the #2 lane (of two) behind a car that slowed for no apparent reason, a motorcyclist merged left and passed. But the driver was stopping for pedestrians crossing in mid-block, whom the rider hadn't seen. He crashed under braking, and the motorcycle slid into the pedestrians. The car had blocked the rider's view to the pedestrians.
That example from my OP happened in Eureka a few weeks ago. Fortunately, injuries to both the pedestrians and the rider were minor.

Today, a similar crash with more serious injuries occurred in Wilmington, Delaware. At this intersection (Google maps link), an eastbound motorcyclist in the #1 lane moved to the #2 lane to pass a vehicle that had stopped for a pedestrian in the crosswalk. The motorcycle hit the pedestrian, critically injuring her, while the rider suffered only minor injuries. From the #2 lane, the rider's view of pedestrian crossing from the left would have been blocked by the stopped car.

Because the intersection is signal-controlled, it is likely that the pedestrian was crossing against the red. But we can't assume that pedestrians will obey the law any more than we can assume drivers will.
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Old 09-15-2013, 09:36 AM   #6
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On my BMW if I see a stopped car in the right hand lane where a crosswalk exists I hit my emergency flashers to prevent being ass packed.

On my Suzuki I flash the hell out of my brake light as I slow.

All bikes should come with emergency flashers; have no idea why they do not.
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Old 09-18-2013, 05:48 PM   #7
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Thanks for that post! While I was reading it I was reminded as to how similar these situations are to "moving blind spots". Reinforces to be hyper aware in those instances.
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Old 09-19-2013, 07:45 AM   #8
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Thanks for that post! While I was reading it I was reminded as to how similar these situations are to "moving blind spots". Reinforces to be hyper aware in those instances.
Yup, lots of different scenarios with the common element of an uninvolved vehicle blocking the sightline between a motorcycle and the vehicle it is hit by.

There seems to be limited awareness among motorcyclists about these situations. When "I didn't see the motorcycle!" appears in a crash story, many assume that the rider was in plain view at a reasonable speed, so the driver is either lying or was distracted. And our training reinforces that belief. But often, it isn't so simple.

In news stories from across the US this summer, I've found more than 20 crashes, mostly severe, where a sightline obstruction was reported in detail. And they keep coming. In Duluth, MN, Tuesday, a police officer turned left out of a Subway parking lot in his car as a vehicle coming from the left turned right into the driveway. But the cop didn't see the motorcyclist approaching from the left in the left lane, and the two collided. Fortunately, the rider's injuries were minor.

In addition, two friend-of-a-friend deaths in the past few months may have involved blocked views. All of that prompted me to devote a new thread to the problem.

I want to make BARFers aware of it, but verbal descriptions really don't convey the intensity or immediacy. So if a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth about a million:



youtu.be/YEK9wAJFOXg
(fast forward to 1:45)
Oncoming car stops to allow camera car to turn left. Oncoming motorcycle passing on the right cannot be seen by the left-turning driver.


youtu.be/XCOqsiuXr90
Driver turns left at a safe distance from oncoming car. As she begins turn, oncoming motorcycle, screened from view in the right lane, passes at high speed.
Discussed in the thread Motorcyclist cut off by old lady in car.


youtu.be/cbIZhzV41SI
Car exits driveway on right at a distance that requires camera car to slow. With view to exiting car blocked, motorcycle passes camera car at high speed.
Discussed in the thread Speeding on city streets can be deadly.
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Old 09-20-2013, 05:24 PM   #9
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A lazy reporter would have written something like "A motorcycle rider and his passenger received serious injuries when they hit a pickup that turned left in front of them." And outrage among motorcyclists would ensue.

But the reporter at the Courier Islander in Campbell River, British Columbia, was more thorough than that:
RCMP report that a southbound motorcycle with two riders passed a southbound vehicle that had slowed to make a right hand turn, the motorcycle then collided with a truck that was attempting to merge from Maryland Road northbound on Highway 19a. The motorcycle collided with the front driver's side of the truck turning northbound.
So it's yet another example similar to the "lost blocker" scenario described in the OP of this thread and others in the threads Traffic Tactics: Left-Turning Vehicles and The Rolling Blind Spot.

It happened here:

The motorcycle was southbound (straight ahead in this view). The screening vehicle, also southbound, was turning right. The pickup was turning left from the cross street on the right.


This was the result:
Click image for larger version

Name:	Campbell River 2013-09.jpg
Views:	39
Size:	49.4 KB
ID:	428926
Note the painted divider in the photo, which can also be seen in street view. The pickup driver wouldn't have expected the motorcycle to be passing in the divider, and he couldn't see it because it was blocked by the right-turning vehicle.

Injuries were serious, but not life-threatening.
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Old 09-25-2013, 02:04 PM   #10
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Awesome writing as always.

Everyone has heard it, ride like you are invisible, but only some understand to what extent.

First, when lanesplitting. I've read in a lot of posts how drivers should pay more attention and see incoming riders farther and better. The reality is we can be hidden until we are literaly 1 car behind, because cars don't follow each other in a perfect line, some a bit to the left and others a bit to the right, some are wider or taller than others. Depending how fast we're approaching, there may only be 2-5 seconds of reaction time left and they're disappearing fast.

Second, when following the traffic, maintaining a position on the lane. Where we are on that spot in relation to the cars' sizes around us make a difference on how others can see us, or they only see an empty spot.

This also applies when we are approaching intersections, like mentioned above.

To me, the thing about riding like I'm invisible includes how I should make myself more visible. Wearing hi-viz stuff is a small part of it, more importantly it's about placing myself where I can be seen the most. Part of it is being predictable to others, put myself in their spot and think what would they see, what would they do/react.

A lot of accidents are usually blamed on the last action, who hit who. Many disregard about the actions leading into it. Which if it's included into the prevention steps, it can add significantly to the avoidance part.
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Old 09-25-2013, 04:08 PM   #11
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Awesome writing as always.

Everyone has heard it, ride like you are invisible, but only some understand to what extent.

First, when lanesplitting. I've read in a lot of posts how drivers should pay more attention and see incoming riders farther and better. The reality is we can be hidden until we are literaly 1 car behind, because cars don't follow each other in a perfect line, some a bit to the left and others a bit to the right, some are wider or taller than others. Depending how fast we're approaching, there may only be 2-5 seconds of reaction time left and they're disappearing fast.

Second, when following the traffic, maintaining a position on the lane. Where we are on that spot in relation to the cars' sizes around us make a difference on how others can see us, or they only see an empty spot.

This also applies when we are approaching intersections, like mentioned above.

To me, the thing about riding like I'm invisible includes how I should make myself more visible. Wearing hi-viz stuff is a small part of it, more importantly it's about placing myself where I can be seen the most. Part of it is being predictable to others, put myself in their spot and think what would they see, what would they do/react.

A lot of accidents are usually blamed on the last action, who hit who. Many disregard about the actions leading into it. Which if it's included into the prevention steps, it can add significantly to the avoidance part.
Good post, Al.

The thing about riding like you're invisible is that it leads to different actions in different situations.

Like you say, when lane-splitting, you're usually NOT seen, and there's nothing you can do about it. So the best tactic is one that minimizes exposure to an unexpected incursion.

When you're approaching a cross-traffic threat, though still a fair distance away, you may not be seen, but tactics to make yourself seen are the best choice. If they do see you, they're probably going to yield right of way, so you won't have to take evasive action.

Closer to the threat, priorities change. Now you assume that they're not going to see you, so you take actions that will best enable you to evade an incursion--like covering the brake and increasing space cushion.
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Old 09-25-2013, 04:37 PM   #12
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Another crash situation where an uninvolved vehicle obstructs the view between a motorcyclist and the other involved vehicle is the passer vs. passee crash. It is discussed in the threads Incomplete Pass and Five Ways to Crash (plus one).

Basically, passer vs. passee occurs when a rider attempts to pass a vehicle as it turns left. Sometimes, a screening vehicle between the two prevents the motorcyclist from judging the lead driver's intentions, or conceals the vehicle completely.

Last night, a rider died near Rochester, New York, in a passer vs. passee crash reported here. A car followed by a box truck followed by the motorcycle were all westbound approaching the gas station here:



The rider attempted to pass the box truck but didn't see the lead vehicle as it turned left into the gas station.
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Old 09-28-2013, 02:16 PM   #13
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as a class A driver we get to go through training once a year, couple times a year "up-dates" and once a month computer videos and question tests.
plus company spys watching us, and a snitch phone number on the truck.

most out there would start a un-civil war if they had to go through this.

so many out there would not even have a dl if they had to do this, but so many lives would be saved.

even in a rig pulling a brightly painted 48 foot van we still get hit and the other driver says they did not see us, or he (the truck) pulled out in front of them. right sure i have to go through 6 gears to get up to 20 mph.

it is hard to expect the unexpected but it is the way of LIFE for a rider.
ask any old timer riders out there.

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Old 09-29-2013, 03:57 PM   #14
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Thanks, DataDan. Agreed, Packnrat. Good stuff.

The core problem is not us not having or wearing bright enough things to help us be seen... it's many operators out there not being properly taught (not realized nor care) where to look and what to see.

A lot of them take driving as a secondary activity when they are driving. And I don't only mean they're using the phone... getting too involved in a conversation, music, deep thoughts, reading, eating, drinking, putting on make ups, etc.

The DMV education has to changed. It's a mere formality that doesn't cover the minimum safety.
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Old 09-30-2013, 09:25 AM   #15
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Thanks, DataDan. Agreed, Packnrat. Good stuff.

The core problem is not us not having or wearing bright enough things to help us be seen... it's many operators out there not being properly taught (not realized nor care) where to look and what to see.

A lot of them take driving as a secondary activity when they are driving. And I don't only mean they're using the phone... getting too involved in a conversation, music, deep thoughts, reading, eating, drinking, putting on make ups, etc.

The DMV education has to changed. It's a mere formality that doesn't cover the minimum safety.
Have to disagree, this thread seems to be more about riders absent mindedly putting themselves at risk by "assuming" the status quo one second is the status quo the next second.

Whether that is passing a line of cars and being taken out by one of the cars making a left or by assuming a car turning left in front of you sees you or assuming what is beyond a slowing or stopped vehicle blocking their vision is free and clear rather than an oncoming vehicle, a pedestrian or a kid chasing after a bouncing ball.

We always have to ride defensively by anticipating other vehicles' mistakes but we must never assume things are status quo and can't change in an instant.

Man, that is poorly written, sorry.
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