The two most common causes of motorcycle accidents in the United States are cars turning left in front of riders and pulling out in front of them from side streets. The single most common excuse given by the drivers is that they didn’t see the bikes. Sadly, in the majority of these cases, this is true.
Despite the prevailing opinions of most bikers, this is more than just drivers being inattentive. There are a number of physical and psychological reasons that people in cars and trucks often fail to see motorcycles on the road.
The Human Eye Is a Poor Camera
The first thing that you need to understand is that the while most of us think of the human eye as operating much like a camera, it doesn’t. If you could see the images that are actually sent to the brain from these biological devices, you would be extremely shocked. If your camera delivered them, you send it back to the manufacturer.
To begin with, they are upside down. Beyond this though, are the problems that most of the image, outside our specific point of focus, is extremely blurry. Then there is the fact that there is also a blank spot in the center of the picture compounding the problem.
To actually form a proper depiction of a scene, the eye must be in constant motion and be given enough time to send sufficient images to the brain to form an entire picture of reality by overlaying these images on top one another.
How We See
The actual images that our brains present to our conscious minds are interpretations based on the stored memories used to decipher these less-than-sterling pictures. In simpler terms, we see what we expect to see, based on past events. Unless we make a special effort to look for something specific or look long enough for our eyes to send several images to our brain for interpretation, we see an empty road if that is what we are used to seeing when no large moving objects are detected.
A driver that glances down a road looking for cars doesn’t actually see the road. He sees an absence of cars. A motorcyclist will often occupy such a small part of the person’s field of vision, for such a short period of time, that the brain simply doesn’t have the opportunity to interpret that it is there.
How to Protect Yourself
Because there is nothing we can do to fight how other people see it falls to us to look out for ourselves. A good first step is always run with your lights on, and wear eye-catching clothing.
There are also riding habits that we can develop that will help us stay safe.
- Staying aware of our surroundings and fighting the tunnel vision that often develops during a ride is paramount. It does no good to slow down when we see a dangerous situation developing ahead if it causes us to get hit from behind by a tailgating truck.
- When you see a car or truck waiting to enter the road, move to the opposite side of your lane. The few milliseconds you gain to react could save your life.
- Instead of looking at a waiting vehicle itself, watch its wheels. The direction they are pointed will tell you a lot about the driver’s intentions, and your eyes will detect the rotary motion of the wheels much faster than it will the motion of the vehicle’s body.
I hope that this article has given you a little insight to how we actually see and better prepared you to protect yourself on the road. I’m Brad Sinclair of Sinclair Law, where we go the extra mile for you.