Scan

Scanning recognizes situations before they happen

Scan basics were covered, under All Round Awareness, in Advanced Skills, Readiness chapter. Scanning recognizes situations before they happen. Low level scanning is just looking. You recognize objects, like cars, children, signs and trees around you. High level scanning is much more than looking. It is recognizing the entire situation. You form what you see into a picture of what is happening. It involves:

  • See the whole picture with all-round vision
  • See the traffic flows and conflict points

All-round vision

Everyone has two different types of vision:

  1. Point vision (or focal vision)
  2. All-round vision (or peripheral vision)
In our book/media world we often use point vision, but all-round vision is more important on a motorcycle

You use point vision when you read a book, and focus on a point to read the letter details. However you cant take in a whole page this way. All-round vision works quite differently – it takes in everything in your field of view at once. In our book/media world we often use point vision, but all-round vision is more important on a motorcycle. The two types of vision are supposed to work together. All-round vision handles object detection and movement, and point vision handles object recognition. A military radar system works the same way. The radar sweeps a broad area to detect incoming objects. When something is detected, more advanced (but slower) recognition system focuses on it, to identify it. So all-round vision is the first vision, and point vision is the second vision.

if you look nowhere in particular, you can look everywhere at once

When riding, use your vision the same way. Don’t focus on the car ahead, but look to the distance. Looking distant activates your all-around vision, and avoids “tunnel vision”. When riding, if you look nowhere in particular, you can look everywhere at once. This is important - trust me on this. If you focus on the distance, your vision automatically takes in all the cars in front of you. If anything happens with them, you will know directly. All-round vision is important because if a car is coming towards you, you don’t need to know if it’s a Holden or a Ford. You need to know how far away it is, and how fast it is incoming. Your all-round vision will tell you this. Even better, it instantly does this for your entire field of view. Peripheral vision rocks!

Road sign distractions

People reading road signs are dangerous because their all-round vision is disengaged

Reading road signs, or looking for street numbers, is dangerous because it activates your point vision. If you approach a driver going very slow, or driving erratically, they may be lost. They are slowing or zig-zagging to read signs or street numbers. Be very, very careful! Their all round vision is probably disengaged, making them virtually blind to anything outside their focus. Their tunnel vision means they may not see something as small as a motorcycle. Also if they suddenly find their way may, they may suddenly turn left or right. People reading road signs are dangerous because their all-round vision is not working.

Blind spots

Use your mirrors, but never fully trust them

When scanning the world, it is important to know where your scan doesn’t work. A problem with mirrors is they have “blind spots”. If you look in your mirror and see nothing, then a car passes you from “out of nowhere”, it came from the blind spot. It is a scary experience, when a lane you thought was empty suddenly produces a speeding truck. My conclusion: use your mirrors but never fully trust them. By all means use your mirrors, but for critical decisions, like changing lanes on a busy highway, use direct sight.

Direct sighting

Direct sight is the best sight because it is 100% sure

I prefer to direct sight when changing lanes. Sometimes I do an experiment, by first using my mirrors, then direct sight to check. Within a month I find a case where the mirror said “clear”, and I turn and direct sight an oncoming car. This might not seem very frequent, and it isn’t, but on a motorcycle it only takes one case. Direct sight is the best sight because it is 100% sure.

It takes practice to turn your head but not turn the bike

Direct sighting is simple enough, but takes practice. While riding straight, briefly turn your head to extend your all-round vision back to the area behind you. Don’t focus behind you - only an owl can turn their head that far! Just turn your head so behind you is in your field of vision. It is just a glance, but tells you directly if anything is there. Turn your head only, but keep your body and shoulders straight, or you will move the bike. When you direct sight back the bike should not move left or right. When beginners turn their head, the bike also moves, which is bad! With practice, you can turn your head but not turn the bike. Your scanning is separate from your bike control. Once you can direct sight back, without the bike wavering, you have a 100% reliable behind check (unlike the 99% reliable mirror check).

If you cant turn your head without wobbling, or if your neck is stiff and cant turn, or if the weather or traffic is so bad it is dangerous to look away or turn your head, an alternative is The Slow Move. The other alternative is to stay in the same line/lane.

See, dont assume

Your best protection on a motorcycle is your eyes. So use them, and dont assume

Direct sight is an example of working on what you see, not what you assume. If you have a green light, you have right of way, but this does not mean you don't look to either side as you go. Take it all in. Be as aware as you can of what is going on around you. When riding down a highway at speed you want to know more than just what is ahead of you. You should know what is behind and to the side as well. Tunnel vision takes less effort, but it doesnt pay to save looking effort when riding a motorcycle. Remember, your best protection on a motorcycle is your eyes. So use them, and dont assume.

Dead space

It may be called dead space because it can make you dead

Dead space, like blind spots, is space you cant see, so you don’t know what is there. It may be called dead space because it can make you dead. Bad accidents happen when space you assume is empty turns out to be occupied by a vehicle. Examples of dead space are when you:

  1. Turn a corner and your view is blocked by trees or a cliff side.
  2. Come to a hill and cant see over the other side
  3. One or more vehicles block your view.
When riding, trust your eyes, what you see directly, not your habit

See later for more details on these examples. In all cases the answer to dead space is not x-ray vision. It is to know the dead space is there. If you know it is there, then you don’t presume it is empty, and act accordingly. Suppose you come to a hill, and cant direct sight what is on the other side. It is probably clear but who knows? A car may be broken down or there may be a dead cow lying on the road. If you cant see directly, then you dont know. If I dont know, I drop a gear and acceleration and cover the brakes (ready reaction mode). I am ready for whatever. When riding, trust your eyes, what you see directly, not your habit. Dont expect the world to always be the same.

Traffic flows

Your risk of accident goes up whenever traffic flows cross

Imagine the flow of traffic as a flow of a stream of water, or of electricity, or any other force, like wind. Where one flow hits another flow there is turbulence and disturbance. Applying this idea to traffic, turbulence occurs where flows cross. Your risk of accident goes up whenever traffic flows cross. When you look at a situation, count the number of traffic flows that cross. The more there are, the more dangerous it is. We have already covered two cross-flow situations that should evoke your danger sense:

  1. Intersections
  2. Lane changes
The more flows cross, the higher the risk, so the more care you take

Cross-flows explain why these two situations are so dangerous. The more flows cross, the higher the risk, so the more care you take. Straight flows are especially dangerous because people driving straight often assume right of way. People turning tend to take more care. You can assess risk by the number of cross-overs. For example , at a four way intersection, there are three other entry lanes, and each can go left, straight or right. This gives 9 possible cross-flows to your flow. Here are the options:

  1. You turn right: Two cross-flow conflicts
  2. You go straight: Six cross-flow conflicts
  3. You turn left: Seven cross-flow conflicts

Most people do feel that turning left at an intersection is more dangerous than turning right. It also depends on which lanes have cars in them. Other examples of cross-flow situations are:

  • Highway merge: Traffic joining the highway merges on.
  • Driveway to road: Coming out of a driveway onto the road.
  • Road-side to road: Traffic on the road side joins the flow.

Note that as other drivers move, the number of cross-flows decreases. Suppose you are on the middle lane of two, going straight, and a car looks like it is going to pull out from a side road into the lane on your side:

  1. Start: There are many6 flows – the car could turn either way, or go straight across your lane
  2. Car is Half Turned: Now the car is clearly flowing right, but could still go into either lane, yours or the other one
  3. Car is ¾ turned Now there is only one flow.

For a bike, for 1 & 2 you slow down, but three is go

Seeing risk

With experience, you "see" risk just as you see a red dress

The final step of scanning is visualizing risk. Just as you "see" a red dress, so you can "see" risk. In fact, redness doesnt really exist in the world. We only see red because our eye responds to it. Redness is a creation of the brain. Likewise our mind sees "risk". It is just as real. Situations like dead space, intersections and lane changes really do have risk. With experience, you "see" risk just as you see a red dress.

Live cars can suddenly pull out, or open their doors, while dead cars dont

Often little things indicate risk, e.g. a parked car with a driver is "live”, if not then it is “dead”. What is the difference? Live cars can suddenly pull out, or open their doors, while dead cars dont. Your risk goes up when you pass a "live" car. You keep a certain distance from them, as people sometimes fling open doors. This doesnt make you afraid, just naturally cautious. Likewise if you see a child at the side of the road. Children have less control than adults, and so could run out. You adjust. If you see risk, what next? Next is to plan.