How a driver can “not see” a motorcycle in plain sight before a crash

We’ve all heard about motorcycle accidents where the other vehicle’s driver claims, “I never saw them.” But investigators later conclude that the motorcycle was in clear view of the driver’s seat before the crash. How can this happen?

In some cases, the car or truck driver might have lied to police. But there are cases where a motorist legitimately did not see a motorcycle rider on the road nearby before crashing into them. Or, at least, their brain did not process what they saw.

‘Blind’ to motorcycles

A 2018 study published in Science Daily calls this “inattentional blindness.” Researchers say this explains motorcycle crashes where a driver acted as if the bike was not there even though it should have been easy to spot, which they call “looked-but-failed-to-see” crashes.

According to the study, when a person is driving, their brain receives a huge amount of sensory information from everything around them and inside the vehicle. Because the conscious mind cannot handle all this data at once, the brain filters out what it considers less important. Unfortunately, motorcycles are objects that drivers’ inattentional blindness is more likely to ignore than other four-wheeled vehicles.

The study suggests that this is because many drivers do not make it a priority to watch out for riders and respect their right of way. Encouraging drivers to make a conscious effort to look for motorcycles before changing lanes or making turns could reduce the impact of inattentional blindness, the authors say.

Riders deserve safe roads

It is true that drivers in Birmingham would cause fewer collisions with motorcycles if they were more careful. For riders, getting hit by a car, truck or SUV can cause them severe, permanent disabilities — if they survive. Fortunately, they have the right to pursue financial compensation from the negligent driver who harmed them.

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