It’s happened to everyone at some point: you’re riding along when you see something interesting, the next thing you know the car ahead of you is at a dead stop and you’re grabbing a handful of brakes. Maybe you’re by an airport watching a plane take off while doing a fist pump ala Top Gun… Or maybe you’re looking away for a justifiable (not so Jersey Shore) reason: like looking over your shoulder at a car behind you while switching lanes…(something I usually do), or reading a street sign, or something… Now if you’ve ever been surprised by something after looking away, you know how quickly it all happens… You just looked away for a moment, and a moment later all hell breaks loose… Especially in NY!
Here’s why: at 30 mph, when you look away for just one second you’ve already traveled 44 feet! That’s three car lengths! And you’re still in first gear. At 50 mph you’re going 73 feet per second… At 100mph, you look away for a second and you’ve just traveled 146.6 feet!! That’s nearly half a football field – in one second!
So how long can you take your eyes off the road (ahead of you)…safely? The answer is, as long as you’re moving: less than a second. There are roads and traffic situations in which you can’t afford to look away at all…where looking away will mean you’ll have to rush to take in new information. But often times there’s enough predictability in traffic to steal a quick glance over your shoulder or at a street sign – but that’s all you have time for, a quick glance.
[You can do the math yourself "feet per second"= "speed in mph"/3600*5280]. There’s a reason why race bikes don’t have mirrors or gauges… at the speeds they travel there’s never a safe time to steal a glance at them.
It’s easy for riders with lots of miles in the seat to get complacent about stuff like this…and a good rider is relaxed and in control, so it’s easy to get a little too relaxed with your eyes off the road. But your safety depends on your ability to see what’s coming up, and even at low speeds there’s a lot of data that your eyes need to absorb and process…
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