Saturday, November 17, 2012

Where To Look, courtesy of MSF

Where To Look
Every Second Matters
Surveying your environment the correct way as you ride involves several aspects. First, you should be in the habit of maintaining a minimum 2-second following distance, while assessing a 4-second immediate path and a 12-second anticipated path. To maintain a 2-second following distance – necessary to ensure you have enough time to react if the vehicle in front of you stops suddenly – pick out a fixed point ahead, like a signpost or pavement marking. As the vehicle ahead passes the fixed object, count off “one-motorcycle-one, two-motorcycle-two”; if the fixed point has not been reached, following distance is at least 2 seconds. Use a longer following distance as roadway, traffic, or weather conditions dictate, or if you’re simply more comfortable having more space and time to react.

Next, scan a 4-second immediate path. Anything within 4 seconds of your path is considered immediate because a quick response is required if something should go wrong. Four seconds provides time and space to swerve or brake for hazards such as potholes or someone/something entering your path. Finally, a 12-second anticipated path means to look ahead and assess an area it would take that long to reach. It provides time to prepare for a situation (road construction, traffic jam, disabled car, etc.) before it becomes immediate.

With the constant scanning of the near-to-far areas, never fixating on one spot, you’ll notice the hazards in your path before you’re literally on top of them. You don’t need to stare down at the pavement directly in front of your front tire, nor do you need to fix your gaze far in the distance in order to detect the variety of potential hazards that await you.

Safe riding requires you to maintain a complete 360-degree picture of your surroundings. Focus on your path ahead, as described, and occasionally glance to the sides to detect if vehicles are pulling out from driveways or side streets, and glance at your rear-view mirrors to see if any vehicles are bearing down on you from behind. Maintaining this picture minimizes the need to rely on your emergency maneuvering skills. In that way, riding a motorcycle is more a skill of the eyes and mind than of the hands and feet.

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