Why do drivers sometimes miss what is right in front of them?

A lot of vehicle crashes, especially those where a driver hits a cyclist or motorcyclist, don’t seem to have a logical explanation. The driver swears they were paying attention but somehow did not see the other person.

There is a logical explanation for this known as inattentional blindness

How does inattentional blindness work?

The brain can only concentrate on so much. To avoid overload, it ignores much of what is happening around it. Think about the last time you stood in a busy train carriage or walked along a busy sidewalk. There is no way you could take in everything that was happening around you or notice everyone who was there. Your brain focused on a few things and ignored the rest.

The brain focuses on what it thinks is important

One way the brain narrows down what to focus on is familiarity. So, drivers’ brains often focus on other cars. They notice them but do not notice cyclists or motorcyclists as much because they are less familiar to them, and so they are not expecting to see them. Unless, perhaps, they ride themselves or are very used to seeing people on two wheels.

Not that this excuses drivers who hit someone who was right there all along. They have a responsibility to look out for all kinds of other road users, especially those who are more vulnerable. If a driver injures you because they did not see you, you’ll need to learn how to hold them responsible for the compensation you will likely need.


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