TEAM Arizona Riding Tip: The Future Looks Bright
Mounting your bike and heading out for a long-haul ride might seem like it’s all about adventure and freedom, but without a riding strategy, you increase your chance of having your journey getting cut short. A little foresight can help keep you safe on the road and help you avoid threats that could otherwise put you out of the biking game for good. Fortunately, the process isn’t that hard. In fact, it’s as simple as counting the seconds and scanning the road in front of you for threats.
Riding well takes a dedication to many aspects of motorcycling. We think the most important aspect is riding strategy. A rider on the roadway without a strategy is like a knife without a handle; trouble incarnate.
In the Basic RiderCourse we discuss the importance of scanning ahead as part of our SEARCH – EVALUATE – EXECUTE strategy. How far do we want to scan ahead? Twelve (12) seconds should be a goal to avoid hazards before they become a reality.
As riders, there are three key time frames we want to be aware of at all times:
- 2 Second Following Distance
- 4 Second Immediate Path
- 12 Second Anticipated Path
These times are selected because they give riders going an appropriate speed ample time to stop, swerve or change course to avoid both immediate and upcoming threats of almost any shape and size. It’s all about maximizing your reaction time and giving you more dynamic control over what you encounter on the road ahead, and when you encounter it.
This month, we’ll be analyzing the benefits of searching 12 seconds ahead of your path of travel.
WHY 12 SECONDS?
Twelve seconds is an important figure because it gives riders time to evaluate potential hazards and avoid those potential hazards well before our superior hazard avoidance skills become a necessity. Sun Tzu, in the Art of War, said the best general is the general who wins a challenge without going to battle; a good, a winning, effective strategy beats the need for force every time. Essentially, we are in a battle for our lives on the roadway. A superior strategy keeps us safe on two wheels.
Scanning 1,000 feet ahead might seem like a bit of an exaggeration at first, but the truth is, you need this much distance simply to give your mind enough time to process the presence of threats and formulate a solution to dealing with them. Human brains sometimes need more than half a second (600 milliseconds, to be precise) to process the presence of a threat before it can even begin deciding on an adequate reaction. Doesn’t sound like much, right?
However, if you’re traveling at an average speed of 60 MPH, scanning ahead 1,000 feet only buys you around 4 seconds to react from your first note of the threat in question. This is why having a motorcycle anticipation time and distance of 12 seconds is crucial – it gives you plenty of time to perceive the threat and then use your 11 seconds of reaction time to safely steer yourself around the risk without slamming on the brakes and creating even more hazards for drivers behind you. In essence, we are planning for the worst in an effort to receive the best outcome
Having a 12-second space cushion is important, especially at the speeds we travel here in Arizona. At 60mph, we travel 88 feet per second. In twelve seconds, we will have traveled more than 1,000 feet. A lot can happen in 1,000 feet. Are you scanning ahead 1,000 feet?
MAKING LIFE-SAVING CHANGES
Knowing what’s lying in wait ahead of you gives you more dynamic control over your riding experience and allows you to take control in the way you deem most appropriate to keep yourself safe. Be vigilant while you’re on your bike. Simply giving yourself 12 extra seconds of anticipation time by practicing proactive riding severely reduces the risk of encountering an accident at intersections, on the road, or in any other space on your journey. Regardless of how fast you’re moving or how safe you perceive yourself to be, practice the 12 second anticipation time and distance during every outing.
By scanning twelve seconds ahead, we give ourselves the ability to spot potential hazards like:
- Inattentive drivers
- Motorists turning left
- Construction zones
- Animals on or near the roadway
- Debris in the roadway
- Rough or damaged road surfaces
- Abrupt changes in road lane patterns
Essentially, we’ll have three options at our disposal before our hazard avoidance skills need to kick in:
- Change our speed (that means slowing down…OR SPEEDING UP!)
- Change our position (could be a lane change or a simple change of position in your lane…it could even mean turning onto a different street)
- Communicate our intention (use our lights, signals, and means of visibility to attract attention and communicate with other motorists)
We want to know if you have any experiences where scanning ahead at great distances helped you avoid a crash. Please visit our Facebook page to tell us your story.
Bill Seltzer has been a Motorcycle Safety Foundation RiderCoach since 2003 and a Total Control Advanced Riding Instructor since 2011. He currently serves as the Marketing Director for TEAM Arizona and is a member of the Arizona Strategic Highway Safety Planning committee. Have questions or comments about the article? Email him: Bill@MotorcycleTraining.com
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