Target fixation is a motorcycle 101 concept that riders learn about when getting their license. Although the problem is easy enough to understand, its solution is easier said than done. Target fixation is the human tendency to “home into” the very thing you wish to avoid. The term was coined during World War 2, when pilots sometimes flew into the targets they were strafing. The problem still exists among pilots today.
Operators of highly responsive vehicles, such as aircraft and motorcycles, are especially prone to this problem. The key to avoiding target fixation is using it to your advantage. That is, look where you want to go instead of where you don’t. When rounding corners, you should look through the corner to where you want to go rather than at the corner. Likewise, look at the pathway around a pothole instead of at the pothole.
This is easy enough to follow under normal circumstances. However, even experienced motorcyclists can target fixate when taken by surprise. Sometimes it’s a sudden accident occurring in front of the rider, or an unexpected obstacle or pavement problem encountered while rounding a corner.
When the unexpected occurs, you only have time to react. This means defaulting to basic instincts. If your instinct is fixating on the scary thing you want to avoid, you will hit it. You must replace this with the correct trained reflexes. This requires the constant practice of looking where you want to go. This will build up the desired reflexes and muscle memory that will get you out of trouble in an emergency.
Developing the Right Response
It’s impossible to not notice an obstacle in your way. However, you can train yourself to instantly scan the nearby area for a way around the obstacle. Once you see a way around, focus on that path and execute. For example, upon seeing your biking partner take a fall on the road in front of you, your eyes should reflexively see a path around him and you should focus on it to the exclusion of your partner. Once you’re safely past, you can turn around and render help.
You should use this kind of avoidance procedure all the time when encountering a pothole, a water puddle, and the countless other things that require minor evasive maneuvers. The important part is instantly averting your attention away from the obstacle to the path you want to take.
When this becomes a habit, you’ll be better equipped to handle sudden road emergencies. Note that sometimes you’ll encounter multiple obstacles, one following the other. This will demand that your reflexes automatically cope with each as they occur.