Imagine this: you are riding at 120km/h on the highway, and as you come out of a curve, you are suddenly confronted with a gaggle of slow-moving cars.
The temptation to keep up your speed and simply overtake them is almost irresistible – but do you know what lies beyond?
Although us bikers can see over the roofs of most of the traffic ahead of us, sometimes a taller vehicle, such as an SUV or a minibus taxi, might prevent you from seeing the reason for the slow-down.
So, while the ideal is to look 12 to 15 seconds ahead of you, traffic conditions may not always allow you to see that far ahead.
Eugene Herbert, managing director of MasterDrive, explains: "While one should not blindly imitate the driver ahead of them, do pay attention to them. If they suddenly swerve, slow down, in case there is something in the road.
"If the vehicle ahead stops but does not move around an obstruction when it appears there is space to do so, do not rush around them if you can’t clearly see that the road is free of obstacles."
Image: Dries van der Walt
He continues: “Motorcyclists, being extremely vulnerable, have to rely on their ability to see obstacles well in advance, which is why I recommend that they exert patience when there is a hold up in traffic that is not immediately discernible. The vehicles ahead of you likely have a better view of a problem than you. Rushing to get ahead of that car may result in a dangerous situation or one that is difficult to get out of.
“With many motorists failing to use their rear-view mirrors properly, it is even more essential for riders to have viewed possible ‘anticipated’ actions ahead and predict possible outcomes. Failing to ‘drive ahead’ may result in a collision due to the negligence of a car driver.”
Herbert adds that the art of not placing yourself in danger due to your own impatience, is being a courteous driver. Rather than being aggressive with other drivers, his advice is to give them the benefit of the doubt that they have a good reason for slowing down or stopping.
“It is unlikely a driver will stop with no intention, or ability, to continue without indicating this to drivers behind them. South Africans are often their own worst enemies by allowing their desperation to arrive at their destination to endanger them. Complete focus on a destination can easily compel one to drive around a stationary vehicle at a traffic light without checking cross traffic.”
Image: Dries van der Walt
Six tips to help you avoid impatient and reckless driving:
• If a vehicle stops behind a bus or taxi instead of moving around, look for people possibly exiting the vehicles;
• If a car hesitates at a traffic light, check for cross traffic that appears at risk of not stopping before you pull off;
• If a truck or car does not allow you to pass on a single carriage way, wait until you can see at least 150 m in front of you before passing;
• If a vehicle slows down suddenly, check if they are creating distance between themselves and an erratic driver;
• If someone suddenly stops for no apparent reason, check the road for obstacles before moving around it;
• In a country where taxis tend to drive on the wrong side of the road, don’t pass stationary traffic unless you are sure they haven’t stopped to avoid the actions of a law-breaker.
Remember that, as a biker, you are invariably going to come off second-best in a collision, so before moving around anyone who suddenly stops or changes their driving behaviour, be 100% sure that they’re not doing so because they can see a hazard of which you might not be aware.Image: Dries van der Walt