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Inattentional blindness may result in fatal motorcycle accidents

For many Los Angeles area drivers, there is no better way to move across the valley than on a motorcycle. Unfortunately, this is not the safest way to travel. Due to the lack of protection afforded by a car’s frame and safety features, collisions involving a motorcycle typically result in life-altering injuries or rider fatalities.

Science Daily reports that look-but-fail-to-see crashes may explain the inordinately high percentage of traffic accidents involving a motorcycle. The brain handles significant sensory information throughout a drive. It filters what is most important, conserving resources. Inattentional blindness occurs when drivers look directly at an oncoming motorcycle, yet still pull out in front of it.

There is a common misconception that the eyes see everything, in much the same way as a camera. According to Road and Track, eyes are biological devices with significant limitations. The brain takes what the eyes see and uses a visual shorthand. In an unfamiliar environment, the brain works overtime accounting for things it does not usually see. In familiar terrain, the brain conserves resources. This is what happens when a motorcycle, bicycle or pedestrian occupies the space a car or truck usually holds.

A driver can look directly at the object, yet not see it. Bicycles and pedestrians move slow enough that the brain has more time to respond, whereas if the object was a motorcycle, a deadly collision might occur. The more drivers look around while driving, the more varied the information the brain registers. Official reports often state that a motorcycle collision resulted from errors on the rider’s part. However, the fault may lie with drivers who look-but-fail-to-see.

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