Could self-cancelling indicators save riders from motorists driving right out in front of them, resulting in a T-bone crash?
There is no research to back up the claim, except my own experience, a couple of fellow riders’ anecdotes and the suspicions of Dr Ross Blackman, research associate at the Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q) at the Queensland University of Technology.
The most common SMIDSY (sorry mate, I didn’t see you) crash is when a motorist drives out from a road on the left (or right in the USA), in front of a rider. The usual excuse is that the driver didn’t see the rider or misjudged their approaching speed.
But what if the rider had accidentally left their left-turn (or right-turn in the US) indicator on and the driver legitimately thought the rider was about to turn?
It’s easy to do as most motorcycles don’t have self-cancelling indicators like almost all other vehicles on the road.
“I dare say that there is not a rider on earth who hasn’t forgotten to cancel indicators for at least a short period of time at some stage,” says Ross. “As such, the crash risk associated with this (in)action is an interesting question but unfortunately there is little to no data on incorrect signal use as a contributing factor in these situations and no specific studies to my knowledge.
“Theoretically it is possible to find whether or not motorcycles with self-cancelling systems are under-involved relative to those without, but in practical terms there are many problems.”
Ross gave us some detailed and comprehensive reasons why research into this situation could prove difficult including the low incidence of self-cancelling indicators on bikes and the lack of reporting of such specifics in crash data.
Yet he says it is still possible for a study to be undertaken.
“I don’t doubt that the issue you raise could and likely does contribute to some crashes,” he says.
“I expect such cases would be rare, but unfortunately we don’t have the required data to confirm this (or many other things).”
It’s not just inexperienced riders who forget to turn off their indicators. I’ve done it on several occasions, especially after a period of road-testing a bike with auto indicators.
And on a few occasions it has nearly resulted in a T-bone style crash. Consequently I never assume a motorist has seen me and always double-check that I’m not giving a false indication.
Ross says he is interested to hear of any similar rider anecdotes.