Road Safety News

THINK! launches motorcycle campaign

Monday 11th March 2013

Drivers are being urged to “see the person behind the helmet” and take longer to look for motorcyclists in the latest THINK! motorcycle safety campaign, launched last week by Stephen Hammond, road safety minister.

The £1.3m campaign, timed to coincide with the time of year when motorcycling increases, encourages drivers to take longer to look for bikers and to think about the biker; not just the bike.

The campaign will run from March to May with messages delivered through radio advertising and in petrol stations. Wider awareness will be generated through TV video on demand advertising, targeting younger drivers in particular.

Stephen Hammond said: “Motorcyclists account for just 1% of traffic but 19% of deaths on Britain’s roads, and 30 bikers are killed or injured in accidents at junctions every day. I am determined to reduce this terrible toll.

“That is why we are funding this THINK! campaign to remind drivers to look out for motorcyclists – particularly at junctions – and to see the person behind the helmet, not just a motorbike.”

The campaign was informed by statistics which show that motorists failing to look properly is a factor in half of all accidents where motorcyclists are killed or seriously injured at a junction; and wider research showing that drivers are more likely to notice motorcyclists on the roads if they know a biker themselves.

The THINK! campaign has been welcomed by the IAM.

Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: “There are far too many SMIDSY (sorry mate, I didn’t see you) accidents on our roads today, so we welcome the new THINK! awareness campaign for motorcyclists.

“‘Failed to look’ is the top reason for serious crashes and research shows that drivers often miss smaller vehicles when they scan the road before a turn. A few extra moments spent checking for motorcyclists means everyone gets home safely.”

Click here to visit the THINK! website.



Comment on this story
Report a reader comment

What's your view - comment on this story:

I confirm that I have read and accept the moderation policy and house rules relating to comments posted on this website.
Your comment:
Your name and location:
Your email:

I have now found the Motion Induced Blindness email thread and have put it at

The demonstration that led to the discussion is at

all very relevant
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (2) | Disagree (3)

Idris, one has to be careful that a flashing dipped headlight is not considered a come on to other traffic. Particularly one emerging from a side road.... another Smidsy (he flashed at me, I can hear them saying).

Perhaps having an additional seperate flashing light to the front would draw one's eye or attention to a motorcyclist - not a bad idea and not the first time this has been mooted.

With legislation now requiring cars and other vehicles to have driving day lights it will become common to see such lights and therefore a single motorcyclist's headlight would or could be lost. However an additional small flashing light added if considered appropriate by the government would be a good idea.

Perhaps also a flashing rear brake light in addition to the normal one would also make one more visible and would make motorcyclists stand apart from any other road traffic.
bob craven Lancs

Agree (5) | Disagree (4)

Looking but not seeing - indeed. Some months ago I circulated a fascinating demonstration on a web site of how a yellow dot on the screen could be made to disappear as far as individual observers were concerned despite being there all the time. In effect a non-physical blind spot. There are clearly experts in this subject and perhaps they should be sought out in this context.

Now I remember - follow-up comment stated that this is very well known in aviation especially in fighter pilot circles where seeing small dots is vital to survival. The trick is apparently always to keep the eyes moving, focussing on one point results in blind spots elsewhere.

If that can be taught to pilots it can and should be taught to drivers. I will try to find that web URL and will post it here if I do.
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (5) | Disagree (3)

"30 bikers are killed or injured in accidents at junctions every day".

If Mr Hammond was so determined to reduce this terrible toll why then has not one penny of Government money ever been spent on determining the perceptual shortcomings that actually cause these accidents?

Much better to spend a fortune on an advertising campaign that reinforces the problem rather than finding out what causes the problem in the first place.

Questions I would ask are whether or not taking a longer look actually solves the problem? What research is there on which they base this assumption? Has this hypothesis been tested before being rolled out?
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (8) | Disagree (5)

As the designers of lighthouses recognised centuries ago and cyclists know now, a flashing or flickering light is far more visible than a constant one. A near equivalent of a direction indicator flasher unit, wired into a motorcyclist's headlamp circuit would provide that added safety at trivial cost. In daylight of course, over-ridden at night.
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (5) | Disagree (2)

This is a very complex issue but it is not impossible. There are obviously visual processing and perceptual errors which cause these accidents which are not anything to do with behaviour.

Recent advances in the understanding of the brain has suggested that there is no such thing as behaviour, only error. Understand the errors and you will begin to understand how the process of driving/riding can be compromised.

For example there are 120 million light sensitive cells in each eye yet there are only one million fibres in the optic nerve. What happens to the data? Is the error that causes a driver to not see the bike happening here or is it happening in one of the other areas of the visual cortex?

Why doesn't our usual method of error checking expose the fact that there is a bike there rather than nothing? Why does the driver pull out and then slam on the brakes before the bike has hit them? Is there a clue here?

There are thousands of questions like this and we need to start answering them.
Duncvan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (4) | Disagree (1)

Elaine's you tube video is an excellent example of how our eyes and brain look but don't see especially when the eye and brain are focused on a particular range of things/ activities. The same thing can be demonstrated by asking people to list the shops in their local shopping precinct. They will be able to easily list those of interest to them but often struggle with the rest - for example boys will often struggle to remember female fashion shops even though they have walked past them many times.
John Lambert, Victoria, Australia

Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

Good to see efforts being made to educate. As a biker it is unnerving to approach a junction to see the car edging out even though you are convinced they have seen you. Please. If you see me. Just stop. I'll let you out if it's safe. I would like to be able to get hold of a poster to put up by the office coffee machine and would ask that you maybe do the same.
David Berman. South Landan and Sussex

Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

Apparently some SMIDSYs are not SMIDSYS.

Those that DO NOT LOOK are not SMIDSYs and also those that see but fail to assess the oncoming speed are not SMIDSYs either. Apparently.

Recent research in New Zealand suggests that hi-vis is not the answer but lighting could be (possibly giving a greater and more ditinctive shape to the biker).

It may also include another two lights of a different colour perhaps, shining to the front. One above and one below the normal headlight may be the answer as they can make the biker more visible and striking to the eye than just one light. Or lights side by side which can look like a car.

Hope the manufacturers take heed.
bob craven Lancs

Agree (6) | Disagree (2)

The various excellent contributions above may all have a bearing on the issue. However the major issue is that most of the visual image processing while driving is done in the subconscious, with the conscious brain being alerted to perceived threats. So the optic system and brain are required to identify and ignore buildings, poles, and trees away from the road as threats etc. The principal threat comes from other passenger vehicles and trucks which behave in a certain constrained range of ways in traffic. And motorcycles, which have a low presence in traffic, that operate outside that range - for example by lane splitting - and which have a different visual shape to cars and trucks are likely to be missed as a threat more often than cars. As a simple example when drivers are checking the adjacent lane prior to changing lanes their vision to the side and through the side mirrors is directed at the centre of that lane where cars and trucks are positioned, not the gap between the lanes where a lane splitting motorcycle will be. As a result campaigns such as this one by THINK cannot have any significant effect on motorcyclist trauma. The only campaign that could work is the one where motorcyclists are trained to assume that they regularly will be not seen, and drive so as to protect themselves in this situation.
John Lambert, Victoria, Australia

Agree (8) | Disagree (4)

I am a biker and cyclist and have passed my IAM bike test, so I'm well aware of defensive riding techniques and employ them constantly whilst I'm riding.

However what would be good is if those not on two wheels would actually employ a bit of effort to look out for *me* rather than my having to constantly watch out for them not paying attention, so campaigns like this are a benefit.
Graham Marsden

Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

It's all well and good that we motorcyclists know that inattention, and 'other' forms of blindness exist, but getting drivers to stop playing with their toys would make a huge difference. Smart phones held away from the ear, so to the 'casual' observer doesn't see the typical hand & phone to ear, in front of the face is now common place, though some drivers simply don't care. Then there are those that fit 'mobile computing' to their vehicles.
Neiljohn Southampton

Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

Duncan: Your comment is a bit cryptic. You said “…. why then has not one penny of Government money ever been spent on determining the perceptual shortcomings that actually cause these accidents?”
But what do you think these shortcomings are, other than the behaviour of the rides/drivers who are getting involved in these collisions?

This THINK campaign seems a sensible one – wherever there is potential conflict between motorised road users e.g. junctions, there is the raised likelihood of a collision, so what’s wrong with reminding road users to take extra care in these situations, which includes looking longer and harder?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (8) | Disagree (3)

Any campaign that highlights motorcycle awareness must be a good thing. Equally the government has funded and commissioned studies that have shown problems of inattentional blindness. My own study of motorcycle fatalities in Northern Ireland showed that in 76.5% of cases where another vehicle was the primary cause of the collision, the motorcycle’s lights were switched on and the other vehicle driver was in a position to see them. However, there appears to be a problem of looking but not seeing which may be due to the size of the motorcycle or simply because the car/van driver is expecting to see another car or van and has difficulty coping with the unexpected. All the experts that study this phenomena agree with this. In my study, a focus group which included police, trainers, DVA representatives etc agreed that awareness campaigns were considered useful, but there is no method to measure their efficacy. However the consensus was that different avenues should be used to get the safety message out to the target audience, such as using the internet, social media, race meetings and specific road signage. In other words - every little helps.

Agree (8) | Disagree (0)

Just to make a point....this video is possibly the most famous example of looking but not seeing, aka the original awareness test...

Agree (8) | Disagree (0)

Sorry John, I have to disagree. Most motorcycle/car collisions are at T junctions or cross roads, not while a motorcycle is filtering (in the UK at least). This campaign is based on on two ideas, firstly that research has shown drivers who are or who know a motorcyclist are less likely to be involved in collision with one and secondly semantic precursors - people hearing or seeing the word 'bike' will have their brains temporarily primed to pick them out of the information being processed.

Motorcyclists do need to be educated as to the best use of road positioning and defensive riding but that also needs to be combined with campaigns aimed at other road users.
Dave, Leeds

Agree (9) | Disagree (1)

Flashing lights are not permitted on non-emergency service vehicles (with some minor exceptions). As with using hi-viz and DRL once everyone is using it all the time the benefit is largely lost as we get the 'sea' effect. What we actually need to do is educate all road users as to why our vision is not suited to driving so that we can work around the problem rather than just using it as an excuse.

Failed to look is a box on the Stats 19 form. It shouldn't be confused with the much more complex physiological and behavioural issues which are at work when driving.
Dave, Leeds

Agree (9) | Disagree (0)

With regard to John Lambert's comment about young males struggling to remember fashion shops in a high street, this has very little to do with observation skills when driving.
I remember several years back attending a Police training session when a member of the public was asked how many Zebra Crossings he had driven over that morning on the way in. When they failed to answer adequately, he was then accused of not paying attention to his driving. If nothing happened at the crossings why would your memory retain such pointless information as it is not important?

Agree (14) | Disagree (0)