Research Found Drivers Twice as Unlikely to See Motorcycles

  • Does it seem to you that some drivers think motorcycles are invisible?

  • Research found that it may be largely due to the way the human brain works.

  • So, what can we do to overcome it?

Scientists have confirmed that the human brain could sometimes fail to register an object in plain sight and that a driver is twice as unlikely to see a motorcycle.

We published a few articles about road safety and touched on why it seems that some car drivers treat motorcycles as being transparent on the road. We also mentioned that it most probably has to do with the human psyche of “selective looking;” as in looking out for other cars and larger vehicles, but filtering out motorcycles, instead. (Please click on the link below to read more). That was partly based on assessments on ourselves when we drive and or after speaking to drivers who have never ridden a motorcycle.

8 Things Drivers Don’t Understand About Motorcycles

Having set their minds to look out for other cars, they’d cut across when they don’t see one. They’d not only pull out in front of you on a motorcycle, but they’d do the same in front of anybody: Other cars, trucks, bicycles, men, women and children, cats and dogs, etc.

Coincidentally, a report published in the Reader’s Digest lately highlights what researchers called inattention blindness as being a factor in contributing to motorcycle accidents that involve other vehicles.  The phenomenon denotes the brain’s inability to recognise certain objects or situations that may be right in front of the eyes and explains why the driver claimed to have looked but not see the motorcycle.

The researchers, led by psychology professor at the Australian National University in Canberra, Dr. Kristen Pammer, PhD, suspects that this type of accidents are not attributable to the motorcycle’s size and visibility. She said, “When we are driving, there is a huge amount of sensory information that our brain must deal with. The frequency of (these type of) crashes suggests to us a connection with how the brain filers out information.”

From CaliClutch YouTube channel

Dr. Pammer and her colleagues tested the theory on 56 volunteers. They were told to look at photos that were taken from a driver’s perspective, including one that include an unexpected object – either a taxi or motorcycle. The volunteers then assessed whether it was a safe or unsafe driving situation. No surprise, it was found that the volunteers were twice as like to miss seeing the motorcycle compared to the taxi. Follow-up experiments were also conducted, concluding with similar results.

Dr. Pammer hopes to use her study to train drivers to be more conscious of motorcycles on the road, “By putting motorcyclists higher on the brain ‘radar” of the driver, hopefully drivers will be more likely to see them.”

From 6Foot4Honda YouTube channel

We’re not trying to grandstand on our own articles, but we also iterated that we hope that you, our faithful followers, help to share the message to car drivers.

Now that we know the cause, are we to allow ourselves to be the victims of inattention blindness of others? Definitely not, correct? Besides that, it’s not only that drivers are prone to inattention blindness; it happens to some motorcyclists as well. You’d usually see them drifting slowly from side to side; or just putting along at slow speeds in the overtaking lane – being completely oblivious to the world. Khayal (daydreaming) kills, buddy.

Ten Ways Motorcyclists Annoy the Public

Here are a few tips to make it out in one piece:

  1. Always ride with full attention and at reasonable speeds in traffic. That also means having your fingers and feet cover the controls in anticipation, as opposed to riding with one hand on the handlebar, for example.
  2. NEVER trust other road users explicitly. If you’re a fair to good rider, never expect their skill levels to yours.
  3. Wear gear that improve your visibility to increase the chances of you being seen.
  4. Always keep in mind that a wayward road user may cross your path at any time.
  5. Keep your head and eyes up. Scan the road in front of you with a wide view, in addition to looking as far ahead as possible.
  6. Be especially suspicious and proactive when you see a car behaving even just a fraction differently from those around him i.e. starting to creep to either side of the lane, or slowing down abruptly, etc.
  7. Use the horn! Using the horn doesn’t make you a sissy. It saves your life!
  8. Learn to brake and steer in emergencies.
  9. And lastly, we repeat: Always ride with full attention and stop worrying about that MU game.

Wahid's lust for motorcycles was spurred on by his late-Dad's love for his Lambretta on which he courted, married his mother, and took baby Wahid riding on it. He has since worked in the motorcycle and automotive industry for many years, before taking up riding courses and testing many, many motorcycles since becoming a motojournalist. Wahid likes to see things differently. What can you say about a guy who sees a road safety message in AC/DC's "Highway to Hell."

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