Distracted driving has become a serious safety issue on our roads. But is it enough to just “not be distracted?” A good motorcyclist knows that actively assessing your surroundings is the first step to safe riding.
At MotorEagles, we recommend the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s “SEE” strategy: Search, Evaluate, Execute. SEE is an active, thinking strategy that places responsibility on the motorcyclist to reduce risk by creating time and space in order to control a personal margin of safety.
Search refers to the process of scanning aggressively for potential hazards. Searching provides you with the necessary information in order for you to make good decisions and take proper action. Good searching extends beyond what is immediately in front of you to include everything twelve seconds in the distance, as well as the areas to the sides and behind you. Check your mirrors frequently as part of your search pattern, and use head checks to monitor blind spots (the area to the side and behind that the mirrors do not show). Note: many motorcycles have convex mirrors that allow the rider to see farther to the sides, but these can also distort your sense of how far away an object actually is.
To evaluate is to process the information that you gathered using your search patterns. To evaluate means simply to anticipate potential problems and to make plans in your mind to deal with those problems should they actually come about. Evaluating effectively is a logic puzzle of sorts, a game of figuring out how factors accumulate and interact to create hazards or conflicts.
A skilled rider is a decisive rider. Once you’ve adequately evaluated a situation and decided on a course of action, execute it. Resist the urge to pause or second-guess. Instead forge ahead with your carefully crafted plan of action. Remember, especially in a critical situation, time and space are at a premium. Act decisively and immediately to maximize your response time and keep your safety cushion as big as possible.
Decisions are executed in three ways:
- Communication. Communication between roadway users is usually initiated through the use of lights or horns, as well as eye contact or other body language. Note that communication is the most passive of all the possible actions that you can take, since it depends entirely on the response of someone else. Use any of these methods to communicate with or attract the attention of other motorists, but don’t rely on the actions of others (their response) to ensure your safety.
- Adjust Speed. Accelerate or slow to avoid a hazard, or, if conditions allow, come to a complete stop.
- Adjust Position. Change your lane position or change direction.
Effective mental strategies:
- Constantly search the road for changing conditions
- Give yourself space and time to respond to other motorists’ actions
- Give other motorists time and space to respond to you
- Use lane positioning to be seen; ride in the part of a lane where you are most visible
- Watch for turning vehicles
- Signal your next move in advance
- Avoid weaving between lanes
- Pretend you’re invisible, and ride extra defensively
- Don’t ride when you are tired or under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
- Know and follow the rules of the road, and stick to the speed limit
Remember to give yourself plenty of space. People driving cars often just don’t see motorcycles. Even when drivers do see you, they may not properly judge your speed.
“Preparing Riders to S.E.E. Better: MSF Tools for Improving Hazard Perception” Motorcycle Safety Foundation, May 30-June 1, 2010