Vision is the most important sense we need for scootering. Feeling is next (feeling what the scooter is doing informs what you will do as a rider), then hearing. You simply cannot ride if you do not have decent vision.
It’s not only how well we see, it’s what we look at that makes a difference. Scientists do not know why, but it is human nature to turn towards an obstacle when we look at it. The body just does it without knowing. You’ve probably done it when walking the mall with some friends – you’re on the outside of your line of friends walking the mall, and you see something in a store window to the inside of your group that catches your eye – you’ll end up bumping into your friends on the inside as you stare at the window. Or, when your kids tell you to watch out for a pothole while you’re driving – we look at where the kid is pointing, and BAM! We hit the pothole. . . because . . . we looked at it!
Okay, now that we know that about ourselves, what is better? The BIG PICTURE! Being able to see a whole lot at a time, using peripheral vision, not staring at any one thing. Looking 10 seconds or more ahead, with de-focused vision, is best! Practice this by guessing where 10 seconds ahead is on the road you are on, count to 10, and see if you pass your mark. Use your peripheral vision to see “everything” as you go by. Obviously, the faster we are going, the more “ahead” 10 seconds is! Practice this!
Is there a time it’s okay to use that “central acuity vision,” where we stare at something? YES! When there is an obstacle in the road, or a problem, instead of staring at the problem, stare AT THE ROUTE AWAY FROM the problem! This has been the reason why we have multi-car pile ups on the highway. One car gets into trouble, and other cars watch, thinking they are watching to avoid the problem. But then they join the problem and they don’t know why it happened, they were watching so carefully. And then other cars watch in horror - and make a bigger mess. The only cars that get away are those that are looking for the way away from the problem! This IS CRITICAL, more so, as a two-wheel driver. As much as we are trained as humans to watch the trouble-makers, you can’t do this when driving. Know this – you can see “trouble” with your peripheral vision, but you must force yourself to look at ways out. You can practice this. In a safe environment, practice “seeing” a crack in the road, and then “focus” on a spot around it. By focusing on the correct spot, you’ll hit the mark almost every time. Remember, though, that for the most part, you want the “eyes up, big picture vision,” don’t be practicing this focused vision for long. What you practice is what you will do when in a crisis situation.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation also has a great acronym for what riders should do with their vision when riding: SEE. S is for “Scan” – the big picture vision is always scanning and looking for potential problem situations without looking straight at them. E is for “Evaluate” – is something coming into your view that might be trouble? Evaluate it for that trouble. What could happen, what outs do you have? The last E is for “Execute” – if you evaluate that you need a quick response, train yourself to execute an escape from the hazard.
Keep your eyes up, folks, you’ll see what you need to see, I promise! Sometime, at a group ride, I’ll do an exercise with you that will teach you to trust your peripheral vision (really, you’ll be shocked at how good it is!). For now, just go out and try some of this on your own.
Next up – checking your T-CLOCS!
Debbie Swanson, our Safety Officer, will provide safety tips and links from time to time. Debbie has been riding for over 10 years and was also an instructor for Master Drive for 12 years. She is a card carrying member of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation...so listen up and stay safe!