When people talk about the causes of motorcycle crashes, they often point the finger at motorcycle riders. While some people do contribute to their own collisions, many times the person on the motorcycle is not the one ultimately at fault for a crash.
Even riders who consistently make responsible decisions, properly maintain their bikes and invest in protective gear can still find themselves severely hurt because of the actions of someone else. Certain risk factors are universal to all kinds of transportation. Motorcyclists can easily get in crashes caused by drunk or distracted drivers.
However, there is often one consistent factor that contributes to an alarming number of motorcycle collisions.
Drivers often claim that they never saw the motorcycle
While it is true that motor vehicles do have blind spots, motorcycle crashes don’t only occur when someone rides too close to the side or the rear of a bigger vehicle. In fact, many motorcycle collisions take place at intersections with the person in the vehicle having a clear line of vision that includes the motorcycle.
A driver who looked right at the motorcycle might then turn around and tell the police they had no idea it was there after the crash. That claim is not actually a lie, in many cases. Those drivers have experienced what psychologists call inattentional blindness.
A huge amount of your brain processing power goes into analyzing visual information. When you travel at high speeds in a vehicle, there is way more information than your brain has an opportunity to analyze. It prioritizes what it thinks is most important to keep you safe. That’s why someone could look right at a motorcycle and not mentally realize it’s there because their brain doesn’t think of the motorcycle as a safety risk.
How can motorcyclists reduce their risk?
People often try to place the burden for such crashes on motorcyclists, telling them that they need to focus on their visibility by wearing bright colors and illuminated or reflective gear to catch the eyes of people in vehicles.
However, the issue is not a lack of seeing but rather a lack of mentally ignoring the presence of the motorcycle. As a biker, there is nothing you can do that can overcome a driver’s inattentional blindness. They can do that by reminding themselves to look for motorcycles. Your only real option to help keep yourself safer might be more defensive driving tactics, such as waiting a few extra seconds and an intersection just in case the person in the SUV across from you just doesn’t notice you.