How to Carry Out Rear Observations On a Motorcycle
Throughout a motorcycle test, you will have to demonstrate to the examiner that you can take rearward observations at appropriate times. This is to show that you understand the dangers and can keep yourself safe.
There are times where you need to use your mirror, there are times where you need to look over your shoulder and there are times where you need a lifesaver before you move position in the road.
You should continue to use observations and lifesavers after you have done your motorcycle test. They are not just for your test, they are for life. The clue is in the name, a small look over the shoulder at the right time could well save your life!
Rear observations – Shoulder checks
While you are riding or while you are stationary there are times where you may need to carry out an observation over the shoulder.
An observation over the shoulder normally looks into the blind spot ( the place where you cannot see in your mirror). But there are times when you will need to look over your shoulder without moving your road position. This look over the shoulder would be referred to as a rear observation.
An example for when you might look over the right shoulder is:- Imagine riding down a straight road, you’ve checked your mirror and you are not really that happy with the view, the traffic flow or with the situation behind you.
It may be that you have been day dreaming and lost touch with your surroundings and you are not sure if anything is in your blind spot or not. What you could do is have a look over your right shoulder to see if it is clear and get back in touch with your surroundings.
This observation would also inform the vehicle behind that you might be about to do something (even if you weren’t).
So it actually gives information to other road users that you may be about to do something. It also means that you are gathering information too.
It doesn’t mean you’re going to move, you just take a rearward observation to gather extra information as part of your riding plan.
Rear observations – stationary
It may be that you’re stationary in a line of traffic and the vehicles in front have stopped. Then as they start to move forward again, you could check your mirror to see what is happening behind but you will not have any view in your blind spots.
In this scenario there could be pedestrians walking between stationary traffic. Or a cyclist on the left hand side or even overtaking you. So, for your own safety and to reduce risk to others you should carry out an observation before you pull away over the left, right or both shoulders before pulling away.
Obviously if it wasn’t safe then you wouldn’t move ahead. You’d need to observe the problem and sit and wait. When it no longer affected you and was safe to move off you should carry out further checks and then move away when it was safe to do so.
Observations protect you and others in certain situations.
Rear Observations – Lifesavers
Carrying out lifesavers before you move is extremely important. It’s important for your own safety and that of other road users, especially if they are over or undertaking you.
You should use a combination of mirror checks and a lifesaver check to reduce the risk of moving into the path of another vehicle. The lifesaver must be sufficiently timed so that you can abort the manoeuvre if you see a vehicle in your blind spot.
Lifesavers are often miss timed by being done far too early prior to moving or far too late so they are done as the rider commits to the manoeuvre. This is obviously too late as there is no way of preventing a collision if the look is done as the rider moves position.
The lifesaver must be done so that you can react to what you see. It is either clear to move or turn or it isn’t. Don’t take unnecessary risks.
Moving away from the kerb
When pulling away from the side of the road you should take effective mirror checks and also a lifesaver just before moving away. This is because you need to check the blnd spot just before moving back into the flow of traffic.
If you are a little stiff or not very agile, you can take your hand off the throttle, this will allow you to turn further round to ensure you have a good look.
When you pull away, it is always best to stay near the kerb for a bike length or two in case you stall the bike. This way you will not be trying to move out at an angle, if you do stall you will still be near to the curb in a safe place. If you stall as you pull out at an angle you may drop the bike but you may also be in the road which causes a blockage to vehicles behind if they appear.
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Turning into side roads
If you intend to turn right into a side road, on the approach you should carry out a lifesaver over the right shoulder. This is to ensure there are no vehicles overtaking you before you commit to turning right and crossing a lane.
You should be aware of what is going on behind as you approach by carrying out regular mirror checks. You should also use a combination of mirror checks and a lifesaver just prior to the turn. But you must make sure that the look over the shoulder is not too late and if you see any danger or you are unsure you should abort making the turn.
Moving position in the lane
If there was a parked vehicle further ahead on your side of the lane you would need to carry out a mirror check and a lifesaver over the right shoulder. This should be carried out in good time and the movement should not be too early which puts you in a poor position in the middle of the road.
The movement around the parked vehicle should also not be too late, in case a vehicle has decided to overtake you before you move position. The location of the mirror check and lifesaver depend on the circumstances at the time.
Every situation is completely different and has to be judged on its own merit.
You must also give yourself adequate clearance. This is to ensure that you are not too close to the vehicle you are moving out for. Once you have gone past the parked vehicle you should carry out a left-hand mirror check to ensure it is safe to move back to position in your lane.
If there is a parked vehicle on the opposite side of the road. You should move to the left-hand side of the lane to move away from the possible danger, if there was traffic passing them they would be in your lane. The observation you would need to move to the left is a mirror check and to move back out after the parked vehicles, a lifesaver may also be required.
Passing larger vehicles
Passing a large vehicle on your side of the lane has exactly the same method as any other parked vehicle. The only difference is that you should be further away from larger vehicles.
Remember, the bigger the vehicle the bigger the safety margin.
You should not accelerate to pass the larger vehicle. Although this is very tempting, if you do accelerate and a hazard appears, you will be accelerating into danger.
An example to consider here is a parked bus at a bus stop. If a passenger gets off the bus and runs across the road in front of the bus and you accelerate to pass the vehicle, you are putting yourself and the passenger in danger.