Collisions in traffic occur for all kinds of reasons. Inclement weather could lead to a driver losing control of their vehicle. Alcohol impairment or drugs could affect someone’s reaction time. Speeding, distraction and fatigue can all make a significant crash more likely.
However, motorcycle crashes are different than the average motor vehicle collision. Often, the person in the bigger vehicle causes the crash, and when they do, they almost always give the same excuse for why they caused the wreck. What is the reason many drivers try to give explaining why they hit a motorcycle?
Drivers fail to see motorcycles that are right in front of them
The excuse that almost every driver gives when asked why they hit a motorcycle is that they didn’t see the motorcycle there. Given that motorcycles are nearly as tall as compact cars and that they are often much louder, such claims may seem silly at first glance.
However, there is actually neurological research that backs up the idea that drivers can’t see motorcycles out in traffic. Huge amounts of your brain’s energy go to processing visual information. When you have objects coming at you at dozens of miles an hour, there’s more information to process than your brain can manage. It has to selectively pick different risks to focus on.
Something big, loud or very close will make your brain worry about your safety. A motorcycle, which is smaller, won’t necessarily prompt your brain to focus on that vehicle. This phenomenon, known as inattentional blindness, is not something that motorcyclists can overcome.
Your visibility gear and extra-loud muffler won’t draw the attention of someone who can look right at you and never mentally register that you were there.
How can you avoid crashes caused by inattentional blindness?
As a motorcyclist, you can’t force someone to notice you. However, you can adjust your driving habits so that a driver who doesn’t see you is less likely to hurt you.
If you pause for an extra second or two at an intersection or when you intend to turn or merge, you could potentially save your own life. Keeping a close eye out for drivers turning left as they approach you is particularly important, as left-hand turns by enclosed vehicles have a strong association with fatal motorcycle crashes.
Learning about your risks for a traffic crash will help you stay safe the next time you go out for a ride.