[Video] Target fixation: This is it

Motorcyclists need to have their heads on a swivel at all times. The situation in this video is extremely common and I have encountered it once or twice personally. Have you heard of the phenomenon called target fixation? No, it is not when you must get to the store, Target. It is when you focus so intently on an object, interpreted as a target, you create a greater likelihood of colliding with it. This is counter to what we get ingrained in us at an early age, "watch where you are going." It makes sense but is actually the cause of target fixation. You are watching exactly where you are going.

Bad driver or bad biker?

The driver of the black car admitted he saw the bike but misjudged its speed. He then panicked and stopped right in the middle of the intersection.

It is hard to tell if the rider was going too fast for this section of road or not. The damp ground and parked cars blocking my view would have been an indicator to me that I needed to be extra cautious through there, but the video does a bad job of giving a true sense of speed. If it was too fast, it wasn't by much.

Regardless, when the driver cuts off the biker, the biker grabs a handful of brake and ends up sliding to the ground and into the car.

In this situation, once he started to pull out, the car couldn't win. If he had continued on his way, the bike may have been able to slow down enough to pass behind, but by stopping, he tried to give the bike an out on the right side.

The biker didn't have enough time to determine what the car was going to do and instead of going around, stared down the target and ended up smacking into it.

How do you avoid target fixation?

All the what if's aside, here are two tips to avoid target fixation - useful all motorists, even runners, and let's admit walkers too. First, don't look at your obstruction, look away from it or beyond it. You will end up going toward that other "target" than the thing you are trying to avoid. Second, don't look directly in front of you, try to look ahead. If you keep looking at your front wheel, similar to if you only look at your feet, you will never have enough time to judge and adapt to any obstruction ahead.

To this dashcam video's situation maybe it couldn't have been avoided, but be extra cautious on a bike if you cannot see cross traffic and look twice if you are a car blindly pulling onto a street. And for both bikers and drivers, try to be as predictable as possible on the road to give everyone else a chance to avoid your mistakes.

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