LAM member David Rawlins draws our attention to a tragedy involving a biker accidentally killed by a motorist pulling out of a junction, and highlights how this case should remind us of the difference between merely looking and actually seeing
We all know the vital importance of observation in safe riding, and it is for this reason that the first letter of IPSGA stands for information (which is of course taken, and then used and given as needed, by carefully observing the road ahead and all surrounding conditions).
The case involves that of a London man cleared in late June 2020 of causing the death of a biker by dangerous driving. Peter Lowe was knocked off his bike by a Land Rover driven by Derek Shakespeare, who was accused of not looking properly when exiting a junction.
Mr Shakespeare told the court he had double checked to his left and right before pulling out of the junction, and that he was not distracted when pulling out. He went on to say that he was firmly of the opinion that he thought it was clear for him to leave the junction and that the incident, and the death of Mr Lowe, had had a deep impact on him. After the impact he rushed to the aid of Mr Lowe and put him into the recovery position before flagging down other motorists for assistance at the crossroads on the A343 in Nether Wallop, near Andover in Hampshire in October 2018.
The Judge in the case told Mr Shakespeare that he could "leave the dock without any further stain on your character" after the jury at Winchester crown court spent one hour deliberating the verdict after a four day trial.
The case highlights the vital importance of distinguishing between simply looking and actually seeing. It is possible, because the driver looked both ways twice before pulling out but didn’t see the bike, that a phenomenon called saccades may have come into play. Saccades is a situation where both eyes make a quick, simultaneous movement between two or more phases of fixation and cause a “hole” in the vision which Mr Lowe’s bike happened to be in.
Riders can guard against becoming a victim of the saccades phenomenon by moving their vision appropriately and safely. We can also move position on the road to trigger peripheral vision perception in car drivers, thus making ourselves easier to see. Further to this, we can (in an appropriate way) sound the horn if necessary. Finally, maintaining an adequate level of alertness and being ready to slow down for observed hazards are also key aspects of safe riding.
Motorcycling Vlogger FortNine has published an excellent You Tube video on the phenomenon of saccades and how it relates to the invisibility of motorcyclists.
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