When it comes to motorcycle accidents, target fixation is a common cause. While it's often the product of inexperience, even veteran riders can fall victim to it. Understanding the basics of target fixation and ways to avoid it will help you be a safer rider no matter how long you've owned a bike. Here's a look at what you should know before you take your bike out for another ride.
Explaining Target Fixation
Target fixation, a phenomenon that affects bicyclists, motorcyclists, pilots and drivers, is the body's instinct to move in the direction where your eyes are focused. On a motorcycle, it means inadvertently turning the handlebars and front wheel toward something you're looking at. The inexperience of new riders can contribute to this, but things like fatigue and the natural startle response can cause it, too. When you keep your focus directly ahead of you, target fixation isn't as great a risk, but if you glance away toward an obstacle, ditch or other object on the side of the road, you may inadvertently turn toward it.
Avoiding Target Fixation
As a rider, you need to maintain control over your focal point at all times. Be attentive to where you're headed, keeping your eye where you want to go. With practice, this will become habit, but it's still something you should actively think about. Practice looking at specific things in the road ahead of you, like the center line or a flaw in the road. This keeps your eyes focused ahead of you.
You can also avoid object fixation as a result of your startle response by ensuring that you focus well beyond the front wheel of the motorcycle when you ride. If you're focused directly in front of the wheel, you won't have much time to react if you encounter something ahead of you or an obstacle in the road. By riding with your focus well ahead of the front wheel, you'll be able to spot hazards with plenty of time to react, avoiding the startle response.
Visualization can help you reduce the risk of object fixation as well. It's a technique that's employed by many athletes in an effort to train instinctual muscle responses and develop muscle memory. The more you practice something and visualize something, the easier it will be for your body to respond that way. Imagine how you would want to respond in certain situations. Imagine yourself on the bike and think about exactly how your muscles would have to move to get the bike to move where you want it. Repeat the process as often as possible to help your muscles understand what they need to do.
In addition, make sure you're taking plenty of breaks if you've been out on the bike for a long time. Stop, get off the bike and stretch. By shifting your focus, giving your hands a rest and stretching your legs, you may be able to maintain better concentration when you get back on the bike. It's much like when you have to get up and stretch and take a break from studying. You'll typically feel refreshed and better focused when you come back. Don't push your ride any longer than you can comfortably focus before you stop for a break.
The more practice you put into your bike handling and the more attentive you are on the road, the less likely it is that you'll experience an accident due to object fixation. With the information here, you can avoid the risk of a serious motorcycle accident that could require extensive motorcycle repairs and potentially cause a serious injury.