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Safety training better than ‘school of life’

This is the conclusion of a new study using a motorcycle simulator designed and built at the University Nottingham’s Centre for Motorcycle Ergonomics & Rider Human Factors in England

Three groups of riders (novice, experienced and those who had taken advanced motorcycle training) were studied to investigate the attitudes, behaviors and skills of different types of riders according to their level of experience and training.

The three groups were put through identical scenarios using a motorcycle simulator consisting of a Triumph Daytona 675 motorcycle mounted on a stand with simulation software projecting different riding scenarios onto a large screen in front of the rider.

“advanced training appears to develop deeper levels of awareness, perception and responsibility. It also appears to make riders better urban riders and quicker, smoother and safer riders in rural settings.”

The exercises were designed to test aspects of their hazard perception and behaviou, and the findings showed that experience on its own does not necessarily make riders safer on the road and in some cases the experienced riders behaved more like the novice riders when it came to handling emergency situations on the road.

“This is one of the most in-depth studies of its kind ever conducted,” Dr. Alex Stedmon from the Human Factors Research Group, said. “It’s been a fantastic opportunity for us in the Faculty of Engineering to work alongside colleagues in the School of Psychology focusing on high impact research with a relevance to all motorcyclists.”

Those riders who had taken advanced motorcycle safety training used better road positioning to anticipate and respond to hazards, kept to urban speed limits, and actually made better progress through bends than the other groups of novice and experienced bikers.

“Whilst experience seems to help develop rider skills to an extent, advanced training appears to develop deeper levels of awareness, perception and responsibility,” Dr. Alex Stedmon noted, “It also appears to make riders better urban riders and quicker, smoother and safer riders in rural settings.”

“This is real cutting edge research and the hazard perception results, in particular, have shown that advanced riders were quicker to identify hazards and had a greater awareness on their responsibility to themselves and other road users,” Dr. David Crundall from the School of Psychology added.

The full report was due out in December. I’ll post an update when I locate it.

About Kevin Williams / Survival Skills

Motorcycle trainer, motorcycle author, motorcycle safety consultant, motorcycle forum moderator, former courier and ever a recreational rider. Is there a common theme here?


3 thoughts on “Safety training better than ‘school of life’

  1. Interesting. But I’m not sure that a scientist looking at that research would be immediately convinced that the conclusions were valid. Off the top of my head, I can think of several factors that you’d need to control for and that I suspect a simulation would struggle with…

    1. Risk hysteresis. You might suspect that more positive self-assessment of ones own skills might be associated with advanced training, and that increased confidence might lead to increased risk taking, and that this effect might drown out any benefit to be gained from superior roadcraft. But on a simulator, there is no real risk. If we suspect that perceptions of risk affect behaviour affect outcomes then measuring outcomes in a simulator is surely subject to significant potential experiimental error.

    2. The impact of machine control skills on outcomes. In a perfect, aircraft grade simulation it would be possible to accurately account for differences in rider skill. But if the simulation is ‘Honda my first motorcycle simulator’ stylee, i.e. an arcade game with realistic graphics, then superior machine control skills become either irrelevent or even potentially selected against (watch an experienced motorcyclist the first time they get on a quad if you doubt that this might be relevant). So, it is a credible hypothesis that a rider who has ridden a million miles and learned how to stay upright despite no formal training in roadcraft, or who has a background in motocross and enduro, or who does a lot of trackdays will be a lot safer than a rider who has done 2,500 Sunny Sunday miles a year for two years, and then done an intensive 4 day RosSPA course and bagged themselves a Silver or Gold. But if you take machine control skill out of the equation, you’ll never find out from this study – another experimental error.

    3. Hazard scenarios. Who designs these? Who ensures that they are representative of the real world? Of course, if you ask an “advanced rider” to design a test of rider skill, it will expose riders to a selection of artificial scenarios where e.g. superior positioning can provide early warning of a hazard and prevent a simulated collision. But are these scenarios representative of the reality of what’s actually out there in the world? You’d want to prove that advanced riders were better at handling the hazard set that real riders experience on the road, rather than an artificially designed environment with a potentially unrealistic hazard set that might skew results one way or the other.

    In other words, at worst all the study might prove is that people who’ve read motorcycle roadcraft do better at that particular computer game than people who haven’t…

    Posted by Ken Haylock | February 12, 2011, 11:22 pm


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