Study Examines Why Vehicles Pull Out in Front of Motorcyclists
According to an online report at revzilla.com, an Australian study examined a common occurrence: a car driver looks right at a motorcyclist as it is riding into an intersection yet still put out in front of him or her.*
This is a common occurrence where motorcyclists are cut off by a passenger vehicle. The authors of a study conducted in Australia, titled "Allocating Attention to Detect Motorcycles: The Role of Inattentional Blindness," referred to these incidents as LBFTS (looked-but-failed-to-see) accidents.
These are the most troubling collisions because not only are they the most common accidents involving motorcycles, they are baffling at the same time. Basically, in clear weather conditions with no other hazards present or distractions (and no driving risks such as alcohol or fatigue), a driver will look right in the direction of a motorcyclist and will appear to even look directly at him or her, yet pull out in front of them indicating that they didn’t see him or her. This issue is referred to as “inattentional blindness.” Since a human brain cannot process every single detail of our surroundings as a driver is going at a high rate of speed down densely populated roads, we tend to focus on what we feel matters. Over time, this results in our tendency to look for things that we expect to see, such as other vehicles and trucks coming in our path. Many drivers simply fail to see motorcycles because they make up a small percentage of the total traffic in the United States or in Australia where the study was conducted.
In the study, three experiments were conducted involving volunteer subjects. During the first experiment, participants were shown an image of a driving scene where some were shown a taxi and others were shown a motorcycle. The image of the motorcycle was even shown larger than the vehicle. Fascinatingly, the study participants were two times as likely to miss seeing the motorcycle than the taxi.
In the second experiment, the same situation was presented as above, except for one detail — the motorcycle was facing the opposite direction, which made it appear to cross the driver’s path. In this scenario, more participants saw the motorcycle, but they still saw it much less than the number of times they saw the taxi.
In experiment three, another vehicle that appeared in the first two experienced was repositioned so that it was located in the path of a driver rather than leaving the scene. In this instance, even fewer people noticed the taxi or the motorcycle. They were more focused on the threat of a vehicle in his or her path.
The authors of the study concluded that "raising the expectation or experience of having motorcycles on the road — such as including them as part of driver training programs and targeted media programs — could substantially alleviate incidences of looked-but-failed-to-see crashes."
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