17 November 2022

I am now 63 and because of loss of sight on one eye, I made the decision in 2021 to sell my motorcycle and cease riding, after over 44 years on two wheels.

During that 44 years, I covered many thousands of miles, both in the UK and abroad, all solo and I owe my life on at least 3 occasions to the fact that back in 1981, I spent £80 on an advanced riders course, taught by a Cambridge police rider, and ended up with a Class 2 police advanced certificate.  I later gained my “blues and twos” certificate whilst carrying out volunteer emergency blood bike work in Devon.

I have also dealt over my 36 years as an injury solicitor with many serious accidents, often involving motorcycles- and I can honestly say there has not be a single one in which there wasn’t something a rider or driver could not have done to avoid or lessen the severity of the accident- and that “something” is based on observation.

The key to motorcycle and car control is observation– something that many, many riders and drivers think they do automatically.  If that were true, there would be a huge reduction in all traffic accidents.  It isn’t true, and the reason is that most drivers and riders have never been properly taught how to observe, plan and react.  To do this properly and continuously while on the road takes significant mental effort and is something that has to be built up, much like physical stamina.

It is axiomatic that, having passed the test, one then starts to really learn to drive/ride.  Unfortunately, that learning is often piecemeal, misdirected, or simply plain wrong- mere experience on the road does NOT make a better rider or driver- all too often it simply reinforces poor habits.

Observation embraces so many more elements that merely looking where you are going.  It means:-

  • Looking not just ahead, but behind, to the side, into the distance, closer to you;
  • Actually seeing what is there to be seen, not just idly taking in an overall picture;
  • Analysing what is seen;
  • Forming a view, from that analysis, of what is happening right now and what is likely to happen in the next few moments or minutes;
  • Deciding from that whether there are any potential or actual hazards;
  • Deciding whether any alteration of position, speed, course is necessary to take account of those hazards and eliminate or reduce them;
  • Acting upon that decision smoothly and with control;
  • Then doing all that lot again…. and again……. and again…….every moment of being on the road AND GETTING IT RIGHT.

When set out like this, you can see how tiring that mental process is- and it can’t be done every now and then.  It must be constant.

Of course, the information you can collect from properly observing covers a huge range- it can be anything from the fact that a bend is approaching (am I in the right gear, right position, right speed, is there a possible hazard out of sight, have I properly assessed the nature of the bend? etc); to more immediate hazards such as “that tractor is about to pull out of the farm entrance that I can see ahead- how should I react?”; or even mundane things like “there are black clouds over there, it is likely to rain heavily- should I modify my driving/riding in any way?”

The reason I enjoyed so many years of riding, often fast and spirited, and am still here to remember that enjoyment is entirely down to the training I received and the fact that I put it into practice every moment.

Knowing how potentially dangerous it can be on the road, and having had ample experience of how devastating traffic accidents can be to so many people, the one thing I would urge on any rider or driver, no matter their age or experience, is GET TRAINING AND FOLLOW IT.  It may very well save your life or someone else’s.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.