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WHY ALL MOTORCYCLISTS NEED TO KNOW the Science Of Being Seen

Updated: Aug 16, 2022

WHAT IS SCIENCE OF BEING SEEN?

The SOBS presentation was originally created by myself (Kevin Williams MSc) over the winter of 2011-2012 as the third 'accident prevention' module of Kent Fire & Rescue's pilot 'Biker Down' course.



SOBS is an in-depth investigation of the most common motorcycle crash of all - the 'Sorry Mate I Didn't See You' or 'SMIDSY' collision. The aim is to offer a better understanding of how, where and why these collisions happen, and to give riders some simple and practical strategies for staying out of trouble.

SOBS looks to explain why motorcycles aren't seen at junctions. The talk explores a range of problems:

  • 'looked but COULD NOT see' collisions, where for various reasons - including 'beam blindness' and the 'constant bearing issue' - it was physically impossible for the driver to see the motorcycle in the run up to the crash

  • 'looked but FAILED TO see' collisions, where the bike was in a place it could be seen but visual perception issues meant that the driver failed to spot the bike

  • 'looked, SAW AND FORGOT' collisions where short term visual memory and workload issues meant that the driver was likely to have seen the bike but mentally lost track of it

  • 'looked, SAW AND MISJUDGED speed and distance' collisions, which tend to happen on faster roads

We'll also take an objective look at the effectiveness or otherwise of the usual 'passive safety' conspicuity aids - hi-vis clothing and day-riding lights (DRLs), before suggesting some general rules to make them more effective.

And the talk concludes with an explanation of the concept of a 'Two to Tangle' collision where someone else makes the initial error but the motorcyclist fails to take evasive action, then offers some simple pro-active measures any rider can take to reduce the risks of being caught up in a SMIDY collision themselves.



SCIENCE-based - SOBS was created to solve a practical riding problem - the SMIDSY collision - but is based firmly on scientific research into these crashes, a body of data extending back into the 1970s. The SOBS website is open to all, regularly updated and provides the background to the presentation, including offering full references for my work.

Regularly UPDATED - new studies continue to emerge and the talk has been updated regularly to reflect the latest thinking such as new studies on lighting arrangements to cope with the widespread use of day-running lights on cars, the 'looked, saw but forgot' theory that appeared in the literature as recently as 2018, and most recently, work on fixations and saccades from Bournemouth University.

AWARD-winning - as well as gaining an insurance industry award for Biker Down, our team at Kent was honoured with a Prince Michael of Kent International Road Safety Award which we collected at the Savoy Hotel in London in November 2012. Used NATIONALLY by BIKER DOWN 2012-2020 - a stripped-down version of SOBS was used as the third module on many Biker Down courses run by fire services across the UK from 2012 right up to the moment all courses were shut down in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic - my final presentation at Rochester was in February 2020. Sadly my personal involvement with Biker Down is at an end since the national organisation has commissioned a new film for the third module but 'Thinking Biker' continues to be based on the SOBS content created by myself for KFRS.

Delivered to RIDER GROUPS - I have personally travelled out to clubs and rider groups around the UK in person to deliver SOBS, and during 2020-21, I was delivering the presentation online as COVID restrictions have made meetings difficult, an option that is still open to groups now.

Going INTERNATIONAL - SOBS has also gained international recognition. In 2018 and 2019 I was one of a team of international speakers on the nationwide Shiny Side Up rider safety initiative in New Zealand, travelling around the country to visit over a dozen venues on each occasion. In 2021 and again in 2022, I was a virtual speaker at the online version of Shiny Side Up

Available as a BOOK - SOBS is also available as a paperback book or an ebook download. All funds from sales are ploughed back into website hosting, further research and writing.


YOUR SUPPORT FOR SOBS IS ESSENTIAL

SOBS receives no funding - the SOBS project remains entirely self-funded. But you can support SOBS and help prevent the SMIDSY collision by donating to support my further work.
 


 

DID YOU KNOW YOU CAN SEE 'SCIENCE OF BEING SEEN' LIVE ONLINE?

The 'SOBS - full presentation' and 'SOBS - in depth' talks will both be available LIVE ONLINE as part of the Survival Skills ONLINE TALK series. The two talks alternate.

The 'full presentation' will give you the chance to see the talk which I delivered to Biker Down audiences in Kent. I investigate the 'looked but could not see' problem, the visual perception issues that cause 'looked but failed to see' error by drivers, why hi-vis and DRLs have proven ineffective at preventing these collisions, the role of the motorcyclist's speed in 'looked, saw and misjudged errors, and conclude with proactive strategies for staying out of trouble. Each presentation is FULLY UPDATED with NEW SCIENCE.

The 'in-depth' talk takes a particular issue with the aim of giving you additional insights. Even if you have already seen the full version of SOBS, the additional detail will help you understand the problems of why drivers occasionally don't see bikes... and why riders often fail to realise there's a threat!

CHECK THE SCHEDULE & BOOK YOUR TICKET HERE

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