Motorcycles may not represent as much of the flow of traffic as enclosed motor vehicles do, but they’re still a common sight on any road or highway. Drivers learn from their first days in driver education class to watch for motorcycles, bicyclists and pedestrians that share the road with larger vehicles.
Unfortunately, when someone in a car, truck or SUV crashes into someone on a motorcycle, they often claim that they didn’t see the motorcycle. In fact, many of these crashes fall into the category of crashes where the driver who caused the collision looked but failed to see another vehicle.
How is it possible that someone sober and responsible enough to drive a vehicle could completely miss the presence of another, possibly loud, vehicle right by them?
Your brain can’t handle all the information coming in during a drive
The human brain didn’t evolve in high-speed, high-traffic environments, and it isn’t made to multitask. When you get behind the wheel of a car, you are going to have to process much more visual information than you can reasonably interpret and analyze.
You should constantly scan your surroundings for other vehicles and signs of danger, like a child chasing a ball or a pet into the street. Because there’s so much more information than you could consciously handle, your brain filters that information based on priority.
Your safety will always be the top priority, so your brain will focus on what it sees as a threat to you, not to whom you might pose a threat as a driver. You will be vastly more aware of the big commercial truck two lanes over then you might be to the motorcycle directly in front of you.
Drivers should make a conscious effort to look for motorcycles, bikes and pedestrians
There’s a reason that so many motorcycle activism groups focus on awareness campaigns for drivers. Asking people to look twice because it might save a life is an approach backed by science.
People will see what they look for while in traffic, or they will see what their brain thinks is a risk to them. If you got hit on your motorcycle by someone who claims that they didn’t see you, their inadequate surveillance does not lessen their responsibility for the impact of the crash on your life.