Bicycling over driving has many benefits: It’s good exercise, more ecofriendly and known to decrease stress, to name a few. However, bicycling on roads with cars and trucks can be dangerous. Sometimes it can feel as though drivers don’t even see bicyclists on the road and an accident can cause serious injury.
So why don’t drivers seem to see bicyclists on the roads? Is distracted driving truly that large of an issue?
While distracted driving does cause many accidents per year, including accidents involving bicyclists, a new study suggests there is another reason why drivers don’t seem to see bicyclists: the brain filters them out.
A study from the Australian National University asked adults to look at photographs of different road scenarios from a driver’s point of view, some of which included motorcycles and taxis. The photos depicted dangerous driving behaviors and asked participants to identify these behaviors in the photos. The study showed almost 65 percent of adults studied did not notice motorcycles in the photos or dangerous driving behaviors involving the motorcycles. The study found the participants were much more likely to notice the taxi.
This could also mean the same for bicyclists. With all the information drivers need to process while on the roads, bicyclists and motorcyclists may not make the cut. According to the study, your brain cannot attend to and process everything surrounding you, especially while driving, so it filters out what it thinks is unnecessary. Drivers on the road may see bicyclists with their eyes, but not register them in their brains. This is known as “inattentional blindness” which can result in drivers cutting off cyclists or otherwise not processing their presence, causing accidents.
Because of this newer information about inattentional blindness, drivers may need to pay even closer attention and practice more safe driving behaviors, especially toward smaller travelers like bicyclists, and bicyclists should continue to stay vigilant and safe while sharing the road with drivers.