As someone who frequently bikes or walks on public roads, you may already be acutely aware of how oblivious some drivers can be. People in motor vehicles might cut you off or start to turn into a lane that you already occupied.
Although you may have avoided a crash so far, not every pedestrian and cyclist is so lucky. Some people get seriously hurt or even die because those in motor vehicles make a mistake at the wheel. Often, the drivers who cause crashes that hurt pedestrians or cyclists will try to blame it on the other party, claiming they came out of nowhere and must have done something irresponsible.
There is actually a psychological explanation for why those drivers cause those crashes.
Drivers don’t notice what won’t hurt them
It takes a lot of effort for your brain to analyze your surroundings as you drive. There is so much information coming in constantly that it is necessary to prioritize some information over other data.
You don’t need to spend your mental energy focusing on the shirt color of the hot dog vendor on the sidewalk. What you do need to know today is the semitruck that just swerved into your lane a bit ahead of you. Your brain will prioritize what you consciously focus on and what it deems a threat to your safety.
Pedestrians, cyclists and even motorcyclists can be readily visible in front of a vehicle, and the driver can look right at the other party and fail to mentally notice they are there. This phenomenon of inattentional blindness is responsible for a significant number of injurious and fatal collisions between motor vehicles and other people every year.
Understanding inattentional blindness can help you
There are two ways that knowing about the phenomenon of inattentional blindness can help you when out on the roads. The first is by hoping you understand that you must consciously think about motorcycles, bicycles and people walking to notice them in traffic.
If you make a point of checking for the before making major maneuvers, you reduce your risk of causing a crash. The second way this knowledge benefits you is by helping you prioritize your safety as a cyclist or pedestrian. You can operate under the assumption that drivers don’t see you, which might potentially save your life.
Learning about the risk factors for and causes of motor vehicle crashes and help drivers, pedestrians and everyone else share the roads more safely.