From bustling downtown areas to suburban streets, motorists frequently share the road with other types of traffic, including people traveling on bikes, motorcycles and on foot. Unfortunately, drivers are often so focused on other cars that they may fail to notice other types of traffic—even when those individuals are clearly visible and have the right of way.
Researchers refer to collisions that occur when a driver looks in the right direction but overlooks a clear hazard a “looked-but-failed-to-see” crash. One of the major factors contributing to LBFTS collisions is a psychological phenomenon known as inattentional blindness.
What is inattentional blindness?
Because the human brain is only capable of processing a fraction of the visual information it receives at any given moment, it often filters out unexpected objects before the viewer becomes conscious of them. For instance, a driver watching out for other vehicles at an intersection may overlook a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
How might inattentional blindness affect drivers?
A recent Australian study highlights the potential risks associated with inattentional blindness.
During the investigation, study participants reviewed a series of photographs taken from a driver’s perspective and made note of potentially unsafe driving situations. In the final image, researchers digitally inserted an unexpected vehicle: either a motorcycle or taxi.
Out of 56 participants, 31% did not detect the taxi, 65% did not detect the motorcycle and 48% failed to detect any new vehicle in the photograph.
What can drivers do to prevent inattentional blindness?
When a driver fails to notice a pedestrian, cyclist or other smaller vehicle, the consequences can easily be catastrophic for the other party. Motorists may be able to prevent an intentional mistake by avoiding onboard distractions and getting in the habit of specifically watching out for unexpected types of traffic.