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Motorcycles Are Harder To See

By Evan L. Kaine

Have you ever been behind the wheel and completely forgotten if you ran a red light or pulled out in front of someone?  It seems absurd, but drivers admit to “not seeing” something or someone while operating a vehicle.  The term is known as “inattentional blindness” – a term coined by Australian researchers.

Motorcycles Are More Likely To Be Hit

The study entitled, “Allocating Attention to Detect Motorcycles: The Role of Inattentional Blindness” refers to crashes that occur when drivers looked, but failed to see.  The study’s main focus was on how drivers continually pull out in front of motorcyclists (even after making eye contact) – resulting in car vs. motorcycle accidents.

Although our brains have the ability to multi-task on overdrive, we begin to only focus on things that we expect to see. For example, drivers expect to see a car or a truck coming at them, drive past speed limit signs or signs for the next rest area. Unfortunately, motorcyclists haven’t become a part of these expectations as they make-up such a low percentage of traffic flow.

The Dangers of Riding A Motorcycle

The study took these driver expectations a step further and performed 3 separate experiments to prove their theory of “inattentional blindness” and motorcycles:

The first study showed a 2 second clip that included a taxi and a motorcycle. Both vehicles were the same color, but the motorcycle was shown larger so it provided the same visual presence.

The second study found that drivers were twice as likely to miss seeing the motorcycle as the taxi. The second experiment demonstrated the motorcyclists going the other direction as if it was crossing the path of the driver. In this instance the participants saw the motorcycle slightly more often, but they were still less likely to see the motorcycle as compared to the taxi.

Finally, the third experiment added another vehicle to the scene, repositioning them in the direction of the driver (instead of leaving a scene). The study found that even fewer participants noticed the motorcycle or taxi compared to the other vehicle posing a threat.

Therefore, even if we look-but-fail-to-see, is there any real hope of ever truly seeing motorcyclists before it’s too late? There’s always hope, but more drivers need to put down their cell phones, focus on who is on the road at all times and never treat a motorcyclist any different than another car or truck.

Although motorcyclists are smaller, that doesn’t mean they are any less significant on our roadways. Driving with intent and attentiveness is important for all vehicles; each should be treated with the same amount of caution and respect.

For more information on motorcycle accidents, contact Kaine Law.

Published March 06, 2018
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