Respect for all road users will go a long way

Greg Murphy is a New Zealand professional racing driver, known for multiple Bathurst 1000 wins. As a Motorcycle Awareness Month 2019 ambassador, he wants to highlight the role drivers play in preventing crashes on the road. He encourages drivers to ‘look twice for motorcyclists'.

The former car racer is encouraging drivers to look twice for bikes and take extra care on the roads.

Motorcyclists make up only 3 per cent of all road users in New Zealand. But they account for 16 per cent of road deaths and 10 per cent of injuries.

So, why are the crash statistics disproportionate to the number of bikes on the roads?

Well, car drivers play a key role in helping to keep motorcyclists safe, especially in heavy traffic. And remember, now that we're through winter, the number of motorcyclists on the roads will double in the coming months.

I want to encourage drivers to be extra careful and put a concerted effort into looking out for bikes when driving.

We all need to check our blind spots by turning our heads to check something isn't being hidden, especially before changing lanes.

Taking an extra look at intersections is really important too, as bikes can appear suddenly.

Estimating the speed of a motorcyclist can be difficult and often the distance a motorcyclist is from you is miscalculated because of its size.

The SMIDSY – ‘Sorry mate I didn't see you' – insight is a common reaction with drivers who hit motorcyclists. This isn't just a poor excuse. There's some really interesting science behind this statement.

The majority of four-wheeled road users aren't going out of their way to cause trouble. They simply didn't see you and the problem is this: sometimes they did genuinely look out for bikes, but they just failed to see it.

The problem isn't just about looking, it's about looking properly. A quick glance or even two quick glances in either direction isn't good enough - you need to be looking with intent!

There's a phenomenon called saccadic masking.

In short - the brain selectively fails to process certain eye movements, and replaces them with a very recent memory. It does this because if we actually saw what our eyes were processing, it would be a blur.

It's like how a video camera records frames and then puts them all together, our brains do the same. It takes snapshots at intervals of what it sees and merges them together thinking it is a continuous sweep, but that's an illusion.

The faster we move our heads when looking side to side, the more gaps or blind spots there are in the sweep and therefore, objects might not be seen.

This doesn't constitute as a reasonable excuse. What it means is, we need to take more time and care when looking out for motorcyclists, and all other road users.

This video explains saccadic masking in a clear and concise way – take a look.



We're all responsible for our own, and other road users, safety. Respect for other road users and being courteous will go a long way to reducing injuries and deaths on our roads.

September is Motorcycle Awareness Month. It's a joint initiative between the Motorcycle Safety Advisory Council and ACC. Find out more about the month at motorcycleawareness.co.nz.