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Invisibles campaign aims to cut ‘failed to look’ crashes

Wednesday 6th August 2014

The Gloucestershire Road Safety Partnership has launched a new campaign to improve awareness and reduce the number of ‘failed to look or see’ crashes on the county’s roads.

‘The Invisibles’ campaign targets drivers, motorcyclists and cyclists, in response to figures which show that ‘failing to look properly’ figured in 45% of crashes across the UK in 2012 - and is the number one contributory factor in collisions in Gloucestershire.

The term describes when the person didn’t properly look where they were going, or they looked but misinterpreted what they saw. These collisions are most likely to occur at urban road junctions in daylight during the hours people are travelling to work in the morning and on their journey home.

The partnership says that the road users most likely to be killed or seriously injured in these collisions are male motorcyclists and male cyclists aged 20-49 years. It also points to statistics which show that the fatality rate for motorcyclists is three times higher than for cyclists, and 40 times higher than for car drivers.

The Invisibles, which runs until early September, includes a media campaign and education programme being delivered to local businesses. In the coming weeks the partnership will issue specific targeted advice to help drivers, motorcyclists and cyclists remain safe.

Chris Harrison, the partnership’s motorcycle safety coordinator, said: “There are a lot of precautions motorcyclists can take to stay safe but everyone using the roads has to play their part and look out for each other.

“It is important for motorcyclists to position themselves so that they can be easily seen by drivers, and to increase their own visibility of the road and any potential, upcoming hazards.

“They should also give themselves enough space to react if something does go wrong so they can get out of harm’s way, and always adapt to the weather conditions.”

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Hugh:
My husband was killed on his motorbike by a dangerous driver who is now serving a prison sentence. He held RoSPA Gold and RoSPA Advanced Riding Instructor Diploma. A 4x4 crossed sharply onto the wrong side of the road to turn right, completely cutting the corner. He hit my husband head on on the wrong side of the road! My husband had shown me his training materials and knew the risks involved in motorcycling. When describing to me this scenario he said 'this will get you every time'. He didn't have time to take evasive action or even apply the brakes. There are some situations that you can't anticipate or avoid. He was past the junction! Police accident investigators agree that this situation is unavoidable once you are in 'the killing zone'. Campaigns like this are essential to raising awareness of 'looking out for each other' on our roads.
Christine Hamilton, Sunderland

Agree (0) | Disagree (0)
0

Nick
You cannot tell if someone is going to do something even though you have your eyes only on them. Experience will show you that it is a position of possible danger and therefore anticipation comes into it.

If you use your experience it should warn you that you can anticipate the worst and that the driver will in fact drive out in front of you. If you don't either recognise this danger or you anticipate wrong, then we have the scenario I pointed out and a collision may result.

I ride a motorcycle and therefore travel generally at faster speeds than a pedal cycle. I would not place my wellbeing or trust in the hands of any other person on the road. To do so would be a nice idea in an idealistic world but 50 years of travelling on our highways has clouded that judgement for me.
bob craven Lancs

Agree (6) | Disagree (0)
+6

A copy of Motorcycle Action Group's magazine The Road has just been delivered to me, and one of the items describes a driver who caused the death of a rider by pulling across his path. The driver attempted throughout her court hearing to blame the rider for his death. Police stated that she showed no remorse for her actions, and the Traffic Sergeant stated that the driver's actions resulted in the death of the rider. She was given a twelve month community order, ordered to do 250 hours unpaid work, and banned for twelve months. No remorse, and transferring blame.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (2) | Disagree (0)
+2

Derek:
Car doors opening suddenly is something we can expect because it happens regularly enough for it to be uppermost in our minds when driving/riding past parked vehicles, whereas falling roof tiles is not. Freak accidents can't be predicted but road accidents can, and can be avoided. A car door being opened in my path as I'm drivng/riding along is not my fault for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but obviously I would still want to avoid contact.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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+2

One can make eye contact with a driver and still they will not see you – hence the “Invisible ones” of the campaign.

For those who consider that one party is always at some fault in a similar scenario that I described, ask yourself why you might be at fault when driving along beside a row of parked cars at 10mph, a car door is suddenly flung open well outside of thinking or braking distance and a collision ensues. Or perhaps you are walking along, and a piece of roof tile falls and strikes you on the head. Should you have stopped before the door opened – and with tinted windows or a child opening the door you may not have seen the occupant. Or should you always be looking upwards for falling objects. Watch out for that waste bin in front of you! Some things simply cannot be avoided.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (3) | Disagree (0)
+3

Bob:
Nick Hughes covered this in his comment - you look for clues from the driver and you can tell if they're about to move across your path suddenly and therefore be able to deal with it. Defensive riding/driving means always being able to stop and I can only reiterate - regardless of what the maths say, in real-life scenarios it works. If you don't want to be in an accident - you make it work!
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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0

Hugh.
Unfortunately at as low as 10 mph you will be covering 15ft of tarmac per second. As the average thinking distance is approx 7/10th of a second you have travelled over 10ft before you start to brake, leaving only 4 ft left to brake in. That's the maths. A bicycle is usually more in the firing line as it's riden close to the kerb and not out into the road like a motorcycle and is also further hidden by the vision of drivers waiting by street furniture, lamp standards, telephone poles, railings, post boxes, possible pedestrians etc. He can't swerve out into the road as a motorcyclist apparently should in order to break with his background and make himself more conspicuous. Best thing to do in those circumstances is get off the bike and walk.
bob craven Lancs

Agree (2) | Disagree (3)
-1

Derek asks about "the rider who has nowhere to go and no time to stop. Was the rider at fault for just being there"?

The answer is of course yes, because if you end up with nowhere to go and no time to stop then you have deliberately put yourself in that position. Far too easy for a rider to explain away the failure by blaming the other guy rather than learning how they could have avoided the situation in the first place.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (6) | Disagree (4)
+2

Not wishing to prolong a discussion but when I ride my bike to work (pedal variety) and pass a vehicle waiting to emerge from a side road I keep my eye on it to spot potential signs of it moving off before I have passed it. Sometimes I slow down (on the downhill stretches) but if I was to slow down to ensure the ability to avoid a collision if it did emerge into my path once I got close to it I doubt I would ever get to work on time! I think slowing down is a good option but there is a need to trust the other road users to get me safely to work. I think this awareness and acceptance of the requirement to trust others means that I perhaps may be trusted to look out for others even though they don't know they can trust me. Complex psychology(?) perhaps but simple to put into a few words - do unto others as you would have done unto yourself. Am I "trustable" due to my advancing maturity, previous driving lessons, ancient Cycling Proficiency training, parental influence, education, peer pressure or an ability to learn through previous experiences? Perhaps the "Let's look out for each other" campaign type message is similar to my outlook and will work for similar minded individuals - oh look! - there are some signs like that sat behind my desk waiting for distribution....... If we all "looked out fo each other" there would be many fewer problems of all types in the world - not wishing to get get too deep about it!
Nick Hughes, Lancashire

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+5

Well Derek, all I can say again is - it works for me. Even the scenario you described can be avoided - stopping within twelve feet is not impossible - the alternative is an accident, which is the whole point of the news item - how not to have one. I don't want to be in an accident so you have to make it work - twelve feet or not.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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-3

I believe I understand quite well Hugh. As one who has had personal involvement in a one to one vehicle incident, I do recognise that errors can be made on both sides, but not every time.

Put yourself in the position of someone riding along at less than the 30 limit on a clear straight road. From a side turning a car approaches and stops at the white stop line. The car driver waits. The rider approaches with caution. When within twelve feet of the car, the car accelerates from standstill and is driven directly across the path of the rider who has nowhere to go and no time to stop. Was the rider at fault for just being there?

As to the campaign appearing sexist - so be it. From cars to perfumes - the ladies hold sway.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (6) | Disagree (1)
+5

This may appear very simplistic, but the reason why bikers and cyclists get hit is because 'we' are not taught to look out for them. Right from the very first time we are taught how to cross the road, we are told to look out for cars/lorries. That is what the majority of traffic consists of. Ask a random group of people what they look for when crossing the road and the majority will say cars or lorries. this carries on into adult life, except for those who take up two wheeled forms of transport - they will tend to be more aware of their own kind.
Andy, Warwick

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+1

The partnership says that the road users most likely to be killed or seriously injured in these collisions are male motorcyclists and male cyclists aged 20-49 years. If that's what the stats are why is it a female in the campaign, could it be construed as sexist?
Jeff. Cumbria

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-1

Didn't ace cyclist Bradley Wiggins get taken out in a SMIDSY accident Bob? Don't think you can get a much higher profile than that!

These accidents really are a non-problem so long as you understand the human factors of both parties that contribute to them. It really does take two to tangle and so addressing only one half of the equation without addressing the other half will get everybody nowhere. The solution is nothing to do with attitudes, behaviour, complacency or any other of the favourite buzzwords, but everything to do with understanding how the human brain actually senses the world about it. The SMIDSY requires an error on behalf of the driver to be combined with an error on behalf of the rider in order for the accident to occur. The driver error is usually a deep perceptual failure that is bound to the limitations of how we build mental models of the world around us. The rider error on the other hand is a much higher level one as it is bound to a failure of knowledge about how the world works.

It is much, much easier to fix a knowledge problem with the rider than it is to fix a perceptual problem for the driver which is where campaigns like this one often go astray. Asking riders to slow down may well be part of a solution, but as these accidents happen to riders on much slower push bikes, it is clear that slowing down is not a complete answer.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (11) | Disagree (5)
+6

Derek:
I think you're misunderstanding. I'm talking about one-to-one interactions between one motorised road user and another road user, where the former may have to stop to avoid the injudicious actions of the latter. To do so with certainty, one has to, if necessary, anticipate and slow down in readiness. If it appears to be too simple a solution, that's because it is the solution. It's worked for me for forty years and no doubt for millions of other clued-up riders/bikers.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (10) | Disagree (4)
+6

Regrettably slowing down is too simpler solution, and one that assumes traffic is travelling at a speed in excess of what is safe. But what is safe? Traffic moving slower encourages more risks to be taken by others when either pulling out into moving traffic or crossing a road. It removes a responsibility of due care from the road user, lessen a threat and risks will be taken. Slower speeds do not reduce accident occurences. Data has existed for over half a century that this is the case. Indeed it is more likely people will be more distracted due to slower speeds - 'I'm going so slow surely nothing can happen'. Fallacy.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

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+3

Rather disturbing that six people don't agree that slowing down to avoid an accident is a good thing. Very odd. What would they advocate - closing their eyes and hoping for the best?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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+1

Chris is correct - if you have been a motorcyclist at some time, the chances are you will be looking for motorcyclists (and cyclists). If not, then their vulnerability will be unknown to you, as well maybe as their presence.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (10) | Disagree (0)
+10

As pointed out by Duncan the issue of failed to look is widespread. This suggests we would see limited efficacy in attempts to train or teach the issue away. Merely telling the road using public they need to change their behaviour will not realise any tangible outcome. Campaigns need to look to change attitude and beliefs - it is this that will have the biggest influence in behavioural change.

The DfT's study into Looked But Failed To See found that drivers who either knew a motorcyclist or rode themselves were more likely to spot a motorcyclist due to the way and time spent scanning the road. There was no evidence they had received any additional training.
Chris Harrison

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+11

Or...as I said earlier, they can do as I do - whether I'm riding my bike or driving my car, the principle's the same - if I think I haven't been seen and there's a chance that someone might be about to pull out in front of me, or otherwise cross my path/collide, I slow down, cover the brake and be ready to stop. Accident avoided.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (5) | Disagree (3)
+2

There are many issues and reasons or arguments for this form of intervention. It's been going on in the same way since the 1960s tho many can't harp back to those heady days. So to some it may appear new. If this were continually and increasingly happening to pedal cyclists there would be an outcry and TV commercials would abound and government would definitely get involved. Money would be no problem at all.

Millions of pounds would be set aside to either integrate motorcyclists into the fold of road users and become accepted by car drivers or there would be a call for less integration and the development of greater separation with new street and junction layouts that segregate the most vulnerable of our road users the motorcyclist. What would be the remedy if it was happening in greater numbers to cyclists? I am sure there would be some form of intervention and something done to educate the other motorists as to the extent of the problem.
bob craven Lancs

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+4

In the PACTS 23rd Westminster Lecture Jeanne Breen said :-

"• Phase 1: 1950s put the onus on the driver and assumed that direct educational and training approaches could more or less solve the problem. As WHO states, these measures provide general support, but there is little or no evidence to indicate casualty reduction effects for this approach. It is notable how easy it seems to be to slip back into this emphasis through political expediency, industrial demand or lack of professional challenge."

The whole lecture may be read at :-

http://www.pacts.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/docs/events/23rd%20Westminster%20Lecture%20Booklet-F.pdf
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

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+5

Chris's list of faults is very comprehensive, but they are pretty much the same faults suffered by all the 30 million other drivers out there, not just me. Appraising the abilities of that many people would be a gargantuan task so wouldn't it just be easier to tell us what an improved scanning technique might be?
Duncan MacKillop, Startford on Avon

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0

Duncan MacKillop.
Are you looking properly at the moment? Are you ever surprised by the arrival of another road user? Do other road users ever seem to appear from nowhere? Do you have near misses or cause other road users to take evasive action to avoid you?

Any or all of the above could suggest you are not seeing other road users even if you are 'looking'.

What can I teach you? Prior to 'teaching' anything I would first want to assess your current knowledge & ability. The failure to see is not necessarily a skills deficit but can be a cognitive failing as you know.

Drivers need to want & expect to see motorcyclists & cyclists - this will increase the likelihood of them being seen. Improving scanning techniques of the surrounding road will also assist in reducing the likelihood of missing something that is comparatively small. Being aware of the human body's limitations, especially the link between sight and perception, and how to counter those limitations, are an essential part of tackling the issue.

Along with physical issues such as our natural blind spot & vehicle blind spots. This list is not exhaustive and this isn't really the place to 'teach' anyone.

These awareness campaigns continue as road users continue to fail to see each other.
Chris Harrison

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+13

How do I know whether I'm not looking properly at the moment? What can you teach me to ensure that I always will look properly in the future?
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

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+4

I cannot help but think that these campaigns are continually being resurrected due to the simple fact that amongst the vast majority of drivers - complacency rules.

Each campaign shows a willingness to 'educate' through shock, awe, or persuasiveness, yet fail (hence a new one) due - not so much to a lack of education at grass roots level - but of drivers and riders having covered a substantial number of miles with no incidents. Complacency then sets in, and along with the so called 'thinking distance' when emergency braking is calculated and required, we have the disbelief factor. Disbelief that the object just entering our pathway is actually doing so - then comes 'thinking distance' if any - and collision.

As such, 'new' campaigns will always be introduced in an attempt to refresh the mind of our responsibilities as drivers - and riders. No harm in that, though repetition can lead to scepticism in their values.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (21) | Disagree (1)
+20

What an imaginative campaign, well thought out and seemingly backed by much research into the issue.
Dr Charles Davies

Agree (14) | Disagree (6)
+8

The fundamental perception problem that caused SMIDSY's was identified and a solution was formulated quite a few years ago now so why are these 'awareness' campaigns still being run?
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (3) | Disagree (17)
-14

There is a fine balance between well-funded, centrally driven national solutions and tapping into the wealth of knowledge, expertise and problem solving skills at the local level that are essential for the development of new solutions and the refreshing of existing ones. Many of the best solutions come from the ground up not just from the top down and we don't want to stifle that.

Road Safety GB is working hard to identify those key gaps between national delivery by the Department for Transport and locally by highway authorities, who have fast-diminishing resources and expertise. We are keen to see the best and most effective campaigns and programmes rolled out nationally where this is appropriate and aim to make that happen.

The Knowledge Centre is already a key source of evaluated programmes and should be the first stop for practitioners, indeed anyone, trying to help solve a road safety problem. This Newsfeed also helps by publicising new ideas such as this one from Gloucestershire.
Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB

Agree (25) | Disagree (0)
+25

Re the last theee paras: the most important precaution - which has been omitted - is for the biker to slow down enough to be able to stop, should another vehicle pull out.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (5) | Disagree (10)
-5

I am not convinced that the regional differences around the country should dictate that all of these initiatives have to be locally created. Surely the issue is a national one and would be far better handled at that level rather than every traffic authority "doing their own thing".
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (23) | Disagree (3)
+20

I am so pleased to see that Gloucestershire Road Safety Partnership has launched this campaign around the issue of failure to look and see. It seems a great campaign and love the title. We in Warrington are going to be launching a similar campaign in October running through to the end of November that targets different road users with slightly different angles on the Look issue. Keen to hear about how the campaign goes.
Melanie McHale Warrington

Agree (20) | Disagree (0)
+20