The really horrible ones are where witnesses confirm the driver had misted windows or a coating of frost on side windows. As a result said driver had been peering through a letterbox-sized patch of scraped windscreen. The police will try to nick this type of driver for dangerous, rather than careless, driving because the act of driving with your vision obscured is not a lapse of concentration. It is a deliberate act.

I have had to deal with a fatal accident involving the driver of a light lorry with tunnel vision who killed a blameless person – the lorry driver was unaware of the existence of another human being until he had caused that person’s death.

No visibility, no control

What has this taught me? Well, I think I have seen just about every method by which a motorcyclist can be hurt, but the common thread is visibility, often compromised by the car driver, with misted glass or nicotine all over the car’s interior glass. Or my pet hate, darkened car windows. Do you have any control as a motorcyclist over these factors, or of a driver whose eyesight is on a par with a mole?

Legally, where a driver does not see you, whether for not looking, filthy windows or lack of spectacles, the fact they have failed to register you makes for a legal slam dunk, subject to you not being proved speeding or riding at night with your lights off.

However, getting knocked from your motorcycle, even if you get a big cheque at the end of the process, is a miserable experience and English damages are supposed to reflect your losses, rather than a lottery win, and therefore are best avoided. Anecdote is not evidence, especially in my job, but there is science which supports a couple of propositions which can help you avoid becoming the victim of an inattentive or unsighted driver…

Proceed as though invisible

If a van is ahead of you on an angled turn, the van driver will have a massive blind spot. Proceed as though invisible. If the van pulls out on you, he is still negligent, you will win your case, but this is best avoided. Be aware that the human eye is drawn to movement and perceived size. If you ride a GS you will have road presence – but in the dark you are just one headlight. Use all your lane as the human eye will be drawn to lateral movement.

The most common T-bone I deal with involves a driver who will swear the rider was not there. Well, obviously they were, but a rider can be obscured by a thick airbag-holding door pillar, designed for roll cage safety but obscuring a large part of the driver’s field of vision.

For me, I do two things. I run auxiliary lights to make me bigger and I move laterally across my lane as I approach a car waiting to join my carriageway. I can see this movement being tracked by drivers moving their heads wondering what this muppet on a bike is up to. I do not want to tempt fate but I will tempt it nevertheless. I have been pulled out on very rarely.

Andrew Dalton

Bike Magazine April 2023