Motorists can genuinely believe that they simply didn’t see the motorcyclist - until it was too late. Every rider must have heard these tired words uttered more times than seems really credible. Nevertheless, it can also be found on many a defendant’s statement in a motorbike accident claim, along with “speeding” or “lost control of his bike.”
While motorists, inevitably, will try to pin the blame on another other road user, the duty of the motorcyclist is to ensure that they are easily and readily seen by going the “extra mile” to avoid both an accident and the standard accusations of “rider didn’t indicate” or “swerving from one side of the road” or similar.
Wearing light coloured and/or hi-vis clothes and reflective strips attached to the upper back and arms all help to being seen better. But the problem is that motorists may simply not check their mirrors or look over their shoulder enough so that they can actually see an approaching object that is not the expected car or lorry shape.
In addition, it’s equally as important for the driver in the vehicle behind or to the side of a motorcyclist to be fully alert to their presence as the driver of the vehicle in front of the rider. For this reason, the lighting arrangements on a motorcycle are crucial.
Research has shown that the most visible configuration was to install a triangle of forward facing lights, with the largest, brightest light at the top of the triangle and two slightly smaller and dimmer lights mounted horizontally below.
The human eye will track and “read” the two bottom lights as appearing to move farther apart as they actually draw nearer. The effect seen from the front means that a motorbike no longer appears to be a distant car. Car drivers can have a tendency to drive on “autopilot” as they simply scan for other vehicles with a transfixed focus on the road in front of their windscreen. Riders are very well aware of “tunnel-vision” driving and the failure to see the presence of a bike, even as it approaches alongside to overtake.
Even so, motorists with glazed pupils trained on the familiar, endless rows of car rears as far as the fatigued eyes can see might also not spot a biker who may have just appeared in front of their vehicle and is slowing down. It’s vital that a rider easing off the throttle must also lightly apply the brakes to turn on the rear brake lights to positively alert the driver behind.
In other words, the motorcyclist must always assume that the motorist is never likely to be too aware of their presence and road manoeuvres - and must ensure their every intention is markedly visible, seen and even acknowledged by the driver.
Otherwise, if an unfortunate incident occurs, the motorist might simply pull out their handy list of accusations.