In well populated urban areas, the risks of being involved in an accident increase exponentially when you’re on a motorcycle, simply because of one phenomenon – the SMIDSY, or “Sorry mate, I didn’t see you.” In this week’s Road Craft, we’ve found an article that is still very much relevant now, especially heading into summer with more of you heading out on your bikes more regularly!
It’s not fair, it’s not right and it shouldn’t happen – but the sad reality is that at some point, the SMIDSY phrase is going to be very real to every motorcyclist. SMIDSY’s can be distilled down to ‘nobody’s fault, but science’; not in every case mind you, but the wealth of study on the subject has proven there are situations where the interaction between the eye and the brain that most of us would expect to occur, simply does not happen.
Collisions occur for many reasons and it’s not always clear-cut as to who might have been at fault or why, but let us now look specifically at SMIDSY, and some of the things motorcycle riders can do to mitigate the risks of it happening to them.
Our first consideration is where we are on the road in relation to other users and the conditions. It is recommended that a Command position – typically about where a car’s right wheel track is, left of the centreline – be taken. But being flexible in this, moving your position from time to time, is a useful anti-SMIDSY technique.
‘SIAM’ is the acronym to counter SMIDSY. It stands for ‘SMIDSY Identification Avoidance Manoeuver’, and basically translates into ‘deliberate weaving’. The weave should be executed safely, thus the motorcyclist should be mindful of other vehicles nearby – especially those behind – and gently.
You don’t have to go from the shoulder to the centreline – a subtle shift is sufficient.
SIAM’s objective is to create a slight amount of movement to focus the attention of the waiting driver on you and your bike to ensure you have been seen.
You know what they say about Assumption? It makes an Ass out of U Me and Umption – whoever he is… Words to live by, care of Samuel L Jackson (with expletives deleted). Motorcyclists should never base a critical decision on assumption, with one memorable exception once delivered by a senior motorcycle instructor: “Ride – and assume everyone on the road is out to kill you. I’m still here, which proves it works”. If you HAVE to assume anything, assume this.
Give yourself room and a place to go. On an intersection approach when another vehicle is looking to turn, assess quickly, “where can I go if…” Your escape route could be on the other side of the road; can you time that with other oncoming traffic? What about using the pavement as an alternative? As motorcyclists, we are gifted with greater flexibility and maneuverability than four-wheeled vehicles; use this advantage for your own safety.
Speed is kind of like oxygen. You don’t actually need a lot of it to stay alive. Sometimes, a motorcycle’s greater speed/acceleration is useful, but you can go slower too. Sometimes, this works more to your advantage, particularly when you are determining if that car poking its nose out of that intersection has actually seen you or not, and you are also looking for a safe alternative to the road ahead.
The theory of ‘commit when you see the whites of their eyes,” is fine, but realistically, if you can see the whites of a driver’s eyes, it’s probably too late. The hyperbole actually suggests that you should try to get some indication from the other driver that you, as the approaching motorcyclist, have been seen. The follow-on to this is: ‘when you have been seen, make sure there are options for when they pull out anyway’.
As a counter to SMIDSY incidents, keep looking all the time for others using the roads – don’t let SMIDSY be the thing YOU have to say.