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May was Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration initiative was intended to make drivers of 4-wheel vehicles aware of motorcyclists so they would look for them, see them, and not run them down. NHTSA’s motto for May was “Share the Road.” It was an initiative to reduce fatalities from cars hitting bikes.

People see what they are looking for. When you’re looking for a fast food restaurant, you see fast food places. When you’re looking for an ATM, your mind screens out places that you don’t think are likely to have an ATM. It’s like grocery shopping, when you have a particular brand of mustard, potato chips, or beer in mind, you look for that brand and don’t read all the labels on all the similar products. On the road, car drivers are used to looking for certain things. NHTSA wants car drivers to look for motorcyclists, too.

There was a children’s magazine, Highlights, and each issue had a picture with lots of objects hidden in the image. They gave you a list of what was hidden. At first you could pick out a few things but as you looked at the list and began looking for particular objects, you could see more and more of what was there. Motorcycles are often like that – objects hidden in the picture — and if drivers aren’t looking for us, they don’t see us. When they go to turn left or pull out onto a highway, they’re thinking – “Is it safe to go?” – meaning is it safe for them to go, not necessarily safe for you on your bike. People don’t see with their eyes. They see with their mind. Motorcycles don’t always make it through the screens and filters of the 4-wheel driver’s mind.

Four-wheel drivers are insulated from the world. They are in a cocoon of distractions – the child in the car seat, the radio, their cell phone, the food on the seat beside them, their coffee, cigarettes, cosmetics, you name it.

So when you are out there, plain as day, in traffic or headed toward some car that may want to cut in front of you, ride like you are invisible. Don’t assume they see you. Their eyes may be on you but their mind may be miles away.

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