‘Expect motorcyclists at junctions’: GEM’s plea to drivers

07.54 | 7 August 2019 | | 6 comments

The road safety and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist is encouraging drivers to take extra care at junctions, in an attempt to reduce collisions with motorcyclists.

GEM points to Government statistics which show that motorcyclists account for 20% of all road fatalities, and 92% of crash victims are male. In 2018, 354 motorcyclists lost their lives in road collisions.

Sunday is the day when most fatal crashes occur, and 83% of collisions take place in ‘excellent’ weather conditions.

Neil Worth , GEM road safety officer, said: “Around 30 motorcyclists are killed or injured every day at junctions, usually because of a driver observation error which some years ago picked up the nickname ‘SMIDSY’ – sorry mate, I didn’t see you.

“Experts point out that as drivers we’re not very good at identifying motorcyclists because they occupy such a small part of our field of vision. 

“What’s more, if we’re not expecting to see one, then the chance of spotting one coming towards us is further reduced, and the risk of a collision is greatly increased.

“So before pulling out of junctions, look carefully all around. Make a specific check for motorcyclists coming towards you. 

“They’re not always easy to spot – but if you’re expecting them to be there, then you’re far more likely to see them in good time… and prevent a potentially serious collision.” 

GEM has published a series of tips to help drivers and riders to avoid a ‘SMIDSY’ collision.

Tips for drivers

  • Before pulling out at any junction, expect a motorcyclist – and maybe more than one – to be coming towards you
  • Have a really good look, and don’t pull out unless you are 100% sure there’s nothing coming
  • Keep both hands on the wheel and look directly at an approaching rider – this can help show that you’re not putting the car in gear to move off

Tips for riders

  • Take a position closer to the centre line of the road – this will help make you more visible
  • As you approach a junction, consider weaving in your lane space if it’s safe to do so 
  • If you see a car waiting to turn, assume the driver hasn’t seen you; have an escape route ready, or be prepared to stop if it will help avoid a collision


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    We use this video on our ‘Biker Down!’ courses – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x94PGgYKHQ0

    Keith Wheeler, Aylesbury
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Science Of Being Seen – explaining “looked but failed to see” collisions – For MANY YEARS road safety experts, police and motorcyclists have known that the most common collision between a motorcycle and another vehicle happens … its all here at https://scienceofbeingseen.wordpress.com/

    Trevor Baird
    Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

    At a ‘T’ junction of a minor road and a main road, unfortunately it seems to be (wrongly) customary for two drivers waiting in the minor road with one intending to go left and one turning right to pull up alongside each other, instead of one behind the other. Firstly each driver is forced to look through the adjoining car’s windows to see if the main road is clear and anyone on the main road travelling towards the junction on the nearside, will have difficulty seeing the hidden car and will not be prepared if it pulls out. Not exclusive to motorcyclists’ safety of course, but worth mentioning. It increases the chances of a collision several times over. The splay of the minor road is not to allow two cars to sit alongside each other if turning in different directions, but to make it easier for large vehicles to make the left hand turn.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
    Agree (1) | Disagree (13)

    Good advice from GEM there, but they seem to have missed one tip a lot of riders I train also forget….on the left hand handlebar of all motorcycles there is a button, either with a picture of a trumpet on it or the word HORN. Many of my students spot a vehicle lurking in a side road, and continue to monitor it as they ride past in silence.
    A short, sharp tap on the horn usually (though not always) grabs the attention of the driver and solves the potential problem. A friendly wave or nod as you pass helps sooth any upset the driver may feel.
    I guess it’s a British thing, we just don’t like using the horn.

    Martin A, Ipswich
    Agree (8) | Disagree (0)

    Many collisions occur at junctions anyway and this problem is not just relating to motorcyclists. Only be out towards the middle of the road if there is no other traffic about and you are the only visible vehicle to be seen approaching a junction. If there are other vehicles about that conflict with your approach slow and a take up the best position that one can be seen in, that not being on the outside of any traffic approaching any junction and therefore blind to other vehicles. Always be prepared to slow and or swerve [move from side to side]. Most collisions concerning motorcyclists can be avoided if one is giving enough space between vehicles to both see and be seen in. Many road users drive too close together [tailgate] and that means that at junctions with drivers becoming impatient they may tend to pull out if the see a gap between approaching vehicles. A small vehicle such as a motorcycle can be actually hidden behind any other vehicle and believing that their is now a safe gap a driver may enter the main road and be confronted by the motorcyclist. With the giving of more safe space one can see more and be seen by more. If a junction is known of or apparent then the first thing that I would do is move in towards the kerb so that I am more obvious and no longer hidden by the vehicle in front and then if there is a car waiting to enter my road space I would take other actions by slowing, possibly swerving or otherwise moving my position for greater safety until I am certain that I can proceed across that particular junction.

    A lot of these collisions could be avoided by the actual motorcyclist themselves with being in the correct position on the road and creating a presence plus the giving of safer following on distances and if the motorcyclists used their brains and understood just how vulnerable they are and at the slightest hint of possible danger take early evasive actions and not merely continue as they are and presume that they have been seen in the first place.

    That said of course they are not trained to ride defensively in the first place.

    Agree (2) | Disagree (2)

    Warwick University have produced some research on “Change Blindness”.

    This is a phenomenon which causes an inability to detect changes in very similar visual scenes. An awareness of this can highlight overconfidence in observation and cause an increase in concentration.

    Expecting motorcyclists especially at junctions seems to me to fit very well into this research and may help to offer some answers and solutions?

    Gareth Tuffery, London
    Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

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