A recently released research report entitled “Allocating Attention to Detect Motorcycles: The Role of Inattentional Blindness” strives to address how the brain fails to process the presence of motorcycles on the roads. The study seeks to explain the high number of cases in which motorists scanned the roadway around them but failed to notice a motorcycle on the road. Findings show that a large number of crashes involving motorcycles may be due to this “inattentional blindness.”
The study defines inattentinoal blindness as the inability to notice an object in plain sight because the object is unexpected. In such cases the brain fails to process the presence of the object and it goes undetected mentally, even if the eyes notice it visually. Researchers Stephanie Lentern, Kristen Pammer, and Stephanie Sabadas found that, in many cases, motorists will look towards and sometimes directly at a motorcycle in their path and still fail to react to avoid striking it.
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The research involved a population of 56 adults who were shown an array of photographs of road conditions taken from the perspective of the driver. Respondents simply had to choose if the road conditions were safe or unsafe. In one photo, the researchers altered the image by adding an unexpected object (a taxi or motorcycle) and the subjects if the detected the object. 48% of the participants failed to notice the object, and of that group, 65% did not detect the motorcycle.
The study highlights the importance of training motorists to be motorcycle-aware when driving. Researchers suggest that training programs be required for new drivers to help them detect the presence of unexpected objects on the roadways. Such programs could help develop the brain’s radar and help drivers become more conditioned to notice these objects. As Pammer notes, “By putting motorcyclists higher on the brain ‘radar’ of the driver, hopefully drivers will be more likely to see them. In the meantime, we need to be more vigilant, more active, and more conscious when driving.”
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The study certainly presents strong findings for the presence of inattentional blindness, but how can bikers help protect themselves on the roadway? We know that part of being safe is being seen. Although there is a certain appeal of the black leather jacket, it doesn’t do much to help you be noticed on your bike. Modern jackets come in a variety of colors, some with added reflectors, that are designed to catch the attention of those on the road around you. These bright colors set you apart from other objects on the road around you and make you less likely to be a victim of inattentional blindness.
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Reflectors and lights on your bike are other ways to help you be seen. Especially during dawn and dusk hours, motorcycles easily blend in with the objects around them. The smaller frame of a motorcycle when compared to a car or truck means they are easier to be missed. Reflectors or additional lights help you stand out on the horizon, which means you will be detected more easily by those around you.
Many bikers assume if they notice a motorist looking their way, they are safe. Findings from the study indicate that as simply not the case. Even if a driver is looking directly at you, they may fail to notice you. That’s why it is important to never take for granted that you are seen by others on the road. Ride defensively, always, and try to keep an escape route around you when possible. By giving yourself the ability and space to maneuver defensively, you lower your risk of being involved in a crash. This also means leaving extra space in front of your bike. Do not creep too close to traffic, as you want to leave ample time to brake and get out of the way when necessary.
The findings of the study highlight something that was, as bikers and motorcycle crash attorneys, have noticed for years: motorists simply do not see bikers on the roads. This means bikers need to be ever vigilant of the roads and drivers around them. Drivers expect to see other cars and trucks on the roads, but may simply overlook a biker, even directly in their path. This can spell tragedy if a biker is struck!
Do not let yourself be a victim of an inattentive driver. If you have been struck by a car and face injuries from the crash, contact an experienced motorcycle injury lawyer at 1-800-MOTORCYCLE today. Our team works diligently to keep abreast of the research, laws, and techniques we can use to help advocate for bikers and help you recover from your crash. Contact us at any time, even if you simply have questions about a crash. It is better to seek the advice of an attorney than to go it alone and get less than you deserve.