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The ‘Science Of Being Seen’ (SOBS) presentation is an in-depth investigation of the most common motorcycle crash of all – the ‘Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You’ or ‘SMIDSY’ collision.

The aim is to offer a better understanding of how, where and why these collisions happen, and to give riders some simple and practical strategies for staying out of trouble. SOBS was originally created by myself (Kevin Williams MSc) over the winter of 2011-2012 as the third ‘accident prevention’ module of Kent Fire & Rescue’s pilot ‘Biker Down’ course.

WHAT IS SOBS? SOBS looks to explain why motorcycles aren’t seen at junctions. The talk explores a range of problems: 

* ‘looked but COULD NOT see’ collisions, where for various reasons – including ‘beam blindness’ and the ‘constant bearing issue’ – it was physically impossible for the driver to see the motorcycle in the run up to the crash
* ‘looked but FAILED TO see’ collisions, where the bike was in a place it could be seen but visual perception issues meant that the driver failed to spot the bike
* ‘looked, SAW AND FORGOT’ collisions where short term visual memory and workload issues meant that the driver was likely to have seen the bike but mentally lost track of it
* ‘looked, SAW AND MISJUDGED speed and distance’ collisions, which tend to happen on faster roads

We’ll also take an objective look at the effectiveness or otherwise of the usual ‘passive safety’ conspicuity aids – hi-vis clothing and day-riding lights (DRLs), before suggesting some general rules to make them more effective.

Finally, the talk concludes with an explanation of the concept of a ‘Two to Tangle’ collision where someone else makes the initial error but the motorcyclist fails to take evasive action, then offers some simple pro-active measures any rider can take to reduce the risks of being caught up in a SMIDY collision themselves. 

Science-based – SOBS was created to solve a practical riding problem – the SMIDSY collision – but is based firmly on scientific research into these crashes, a body of data extending back into the 1970s. The SOBS website is open to all, regularly updated and provides the background to the presentation, including offering full references for my work. 

Regularly updated – new studies continue to emerge and the talk has been updated regularly to reflect the latest thinking such as new studies on lighting arrangements to cope with the widespread use of day-running lights on cars, and the ‘looked, saw but forgot’ theory that appeared in the literature as recently as 2018. 

Award-winning – as well as an insurance industry award for Biker Down, our team at Kent was honoured with a Prince Michael of Kent International Road Safety Award which we collected at the Savoy Hotel in London in November 2012.

Used nationally – As more and more fire services across the UK adopted Biker Down, a stripped-down version of SOBS has been used as the third module on many of these courses, right up to the moment courses were shut down in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I personally continued to deliver SOBS to audience of motorcyclists at Rochester in Kent for KFRS until my final presentation in February 2020.

Going international – SOBS has also gained international recognition. In 2018 and 2019 I was one of a team of international speakers on the nationwide Shiny Side Up rider safety initiative in New Zealand, travelling around the country to visit over a dozen venues on each occasion. In 2021, I was a virtual speaker at Shiny Side Up. 

Delivered to rider groups – I have travelled around the UK in person to deliver SOBS to clubs and rider groups around the UK. More recently I’ve been delivering the presentation online as COVID restrictions have made meetings difficult. To organise a talk for your own group contact me at:

Available as a book – SOBS is also available as a paperback book or an ebook download. All funds from sales are ploughed back into website hosting, further research and writing. 

Other than donations SOBS receives no funding – and until 2019, the SOBS project remained entirely self-funded. Your contributions help keep the project alive.


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This is YOUR CHANCE to see the ORIGINAL and FULL Science Of Being Seen presentation updated with the most recent research.

TICKETS ARE JUST £5. Attendance is limited to 30 people per event. Your access code will be emailed to you shortly before the event. 


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