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Motorcycle Safety/Dynamics

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Moving Camouflage
makes you invisible - they really may not see you

By: James R. Davis

An article in the March, 2005 issue of the British magazine Bike describes a study indicating one reason why it just might be true that when someone claims not to have seen a motorcycle before a collision, they may well be telling the truth. The study identified a phenomenon known as Moving Camouflage and an ancillary concept called the Looming Effect.

Moving Camouflage
When an object approaches you along the same line of sight as a background point of interest, there is very little in the way of visible change of that approaching object and as a result you may not notice it. Lets look at a concrete example of this phenomenon.

Though the background point of interest is usually stationary, such as a building, you can see that even another moving vehicle can be enough.

Looming Effect
An approaching object always appears to get larger the closer it gets. But the difference in size (the amount of size change) is very small when an object moves from 1000 ft to 900 ft as compared to when it moves from 200 ft to 100 ft. In the latter case the change is dramatic - it can be said to be coming into view as a looming threat. When that happens, the moving camouflage phenomenon ceases to exist. In the diagram above the motorcycle would be at approximately the place where the looming effect would overwhelm the moving camouflage phenomenon and suddenly appear to the driver of the blue car.

The best way to overcome the moving camouflage phenomenon is to vary your lane position as you approach a threatening vehicle to become visible because of a change in your behavior.

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(James R. Davis is a recognized expert witness in the fields of Motorcycle Safety/Dynamics.)

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