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Old 07-13-2014, 12:33 AM   #1
Sparrowhawk OP
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Twin headlights

Today I scared the shit out of a couple of Harley riders and, to a lesser extent, the passengers I'm the car I was driving.

I'm heading south on WY 26 into Cody and got behind a short line of cars going slow behind it truck. It's a straight, rolling stretch with good visibility.

The pavement is shimmering and there are a couple of cars coming from the distance but there's plenty of room. I jump into the passing lane and get passed a couple of cars when my wife starts urgently encouraging me to "WATCH OUT!". It turns out the two cars in the distance were actually a couple of Harleys with the side by side round headlights significantly closer. The cars in the line I was passing were tailgating each other making it hard to get back into my lane.

Hard on the brakes, push my way back into the line of cars, the two bikes go past, and all is good. I was really surprised to be fooled by the illusion.

I wasn't goofing off. I was paying attention and being careful. I had plenty of room to pass safely before the two"cars" were coming. In the light and conditions the two headlights in the fairing close together looked exactly like automotive headlights in the distance.
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Old 07-13-2014, 04:18 AM   #2
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The brain matches complex visual input to past patterns to create a mental model that is simple enough to work with. Trying to understand all the textures of our visual input would just bog our brains down with too much detail.

In other words we see what we expect to see.

I am a strong believer in looking twice to see if I saw what I thought I saw. It's not a guarantee that I won't do what you did. I also like the triangle of light on one of my bikes -- it won't ever look like one headlight of a pair.
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Old 07-13-2014, 04:41 AM   #3
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clear

Quote:
Originally Posted by Grinnin View Post
The brain matches complex visual input to past patterns to create a mental model that is simple enough to work with. Trying to understand all the textures of our visual input would just bog our brains down with too much detail.

In other words we see what we expect to see.

I am a strong believer in looking twice to see if I saw what I thought I saw. It's not a guarantee that I won't do what you did. I also like the triangle of light on one of my bikes -- it won't ever look like one headlight of a pair.
The hardest part is making sure there is nothing there.
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Old 07-13-2014, 08:08 AM   #4
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I've experienced a similar phenomenon when passing a car on a lonely two-lane road here in Texas at just about sundown. I was headed into a setting sun and noticed approaching headlights, far ahead.

I pulled out to pass, then floored it when I realized that the approaching headlights belonged to an older Jeep, one with the narrow lights, mounted well inside the fender wells. It appeared to be much further off that it was...

Scared the bejezuz out of me...

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Old 07-13-2014, 08:26 AM   #5
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If you were paying attention your wife wouldn't have said a word. Seeing is different than looking. See dammit.
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Old 07-13-2014, 09:38 AM   #6
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If you were paying attention your wife wouldn't have said a word. Seeing is different than looking. See dammit.
Bull
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Old 07-13-2014, 09:55 AM   #7
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Visual acuity is important when operating a large piece of equipment at any speed
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Old 07-13-2014, 10:43 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Sparrowhawk View Post
Bull
OK...so how do you explain that your wife (a passenger, so not supposed to be that dedicated to the task of driving, don't you think?) saw it before you? Does she have superwoman eyes and all?

I know it can happen to anybody, but your brain clearly wasn't up to the task and this shit can be dangerous. Pay attention, you're supposed to understand the risks as a rider.
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Old 07-13-2014, 11:46 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sparrowhawk View Post
Today I scared the shit out of a couple of Harley riders and, to a lesser extent, the passengers I'm the car I was driving.

I'm heading south on WY 26 into Cody and got behind a short line of cars going slow behind it truck. It's a straight, rolling stretch with good visibility.

The pavement is shimmering and there are a couple of cars coming from the distance but there's plenty of room. I jump into the passing lane and get passed a couple of cars when my wife starts urgently encouraging me to "WATCH OUT!". It turns out the two cars in the distance were actually a couple of Harleys with the side by side round headlights significantly closer. The cars in the line I was passing were tailgating each other making it hard to get back into my lane.

Hard on the brakes, push my way back into the line of cars, the two bikes go past, and all is good. I was really surprised to be fooled by the illusion.

I wasn't goofing off. I was paying attention and being careful. I had plenty of room to pass safely before the two"cars" were coming. In the light and conditions the two headlights in the fairing close together looked exactly like automotive headlights in the distance.
So what's your take-away from this?

What, if anything, are you gonna do differently from now on?
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Old 07-13-2014, 12:16 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Sparrowhawk View Post
Bull
Sure. You keep driving like that.
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Old 07-13-2014, 12:47 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by catweasel67 View Post
So what's your take-away from this?

What, if anything, are you gonna do differently from now on?
Tell people not to ride twin headlight bikes?
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Old 07-13-2014, 01:20 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Human Ills View Post
Tell people not to ride twin headlight bikes?
So I can't ride my AT any more? That sucks!
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Old 07-13-2014, 02:58 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by catweasel67 View Post
So what's your take-away from this?

What, if anything, are you gonna do differently from now on?
Definitely the questions to ponder in this situation. The OP knows what happened and has a good idea of why it happened. To pull value from what happened is dependent on what to learn from that information and how to apply it to future situations.
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Old 07-13-2014, 05:12 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by SgtDuster View Post
OK...so how do you explain that your wife (a passenger, so not supposed to be that dedicated to the task of driving, don't you think?) saw it before you? Does she have superwoman eyes and all
Simple, really. Given the light, road conditions, etc. my wife saw a saxophone player and I saw a woman's face.

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Old 07-13-2014, 05:32 PM   #15
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The Saturn has lights closer together than normal too, this could make it appear farther away. Be more careful passing, don't be in a hurry. You will live longer.

Its very difficult to judge speed when you are moving quite fast as well. If all you can see are lights and road shimmer, I would think its impossible to judge. If those bikes happened to be moving at 100+mph, it could have been very bad.

Recently, I was passing on the right in a 4 lane, 65mph divided hwy. Car in the left lane, doing just under the limit. I was on the bike, with a passenger. Checked mirrors, head checked and saw a car, maybe 10 car lengths back in the right lane. I down shifted and came over, checking my mirrors again as I killed the signal. The Crown Vic was coming fast, nearly on us. I pinned it and darted in front of the car I was passing, barely missing it. The retired police cruiser shot past in the right lane. Without the triple check, and downshift, we would likely have been splattered. Look twice and check again, live another day.
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