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The following article will explain how and why “inattentional blindness” is often an important factor in motorcycle accident personal injury cases. One of the most common types of motorcycle accidents occurs when the driver of a car or truck is turning left and fails to yield to an oncoming motorcyclist who has the full legal right of way. Invariably, when you read the accident report for this type of motorcycle accident, it will state that the driver of the car or truck did not see (or hear) the motorcyclist, even though they intentionally looked for oncoming traffic!
When you hear about such a motorcycle accident, you might automatically think that a car or truck driver that actually fails to see a motorcycle approaching an intersection, or driving through an intersection, must surely be a distracted driver. Perhaps they were talking illegally on a cellphone, fiddling with the radio dial, or deep in thought about their problems at work. You might also wonder about their eyesight. You might even ask, “How could anyone possibly miss something as big as a motorcycle right in plain view — even if they were somewhat distracted?” You might also ask, “If the driver really was paying attention, how could they miss something as blatantly obvious as a motorcycle?” Research in cognitive psychology has revealed surprising answers to questions like the ones above! It turns out that vehicular drivers don’t always see motorcycles right in front of them because of a psychological state called “inattentional blindness” which is also sometimes referred to as “perceptual blindness.” Inattentional blindness is defined as a failure to notice a person or object that is fully visible but was unexpected because the person’s attention was otherwise engaged on another person, object, or task. Further, the stronger their attention is, the more likely their inattentional blindness will be!
It is important to note that inattentional blindness does not have anything to do with one’s physical ability to see. In other words, a person with 20/20 vision (or even better) can have inattentional blindness because it has more to do with how the human brain processes the information taken in by the eyes, not by how well the eyes themselves function.
The key is that on most roads, motorcycles are far less common than cars and trucks. Therefore, while a driver may be paying close attention to the predominant traffic on the road, i.e. cars and trucks, when a motorcycle enters their field of vision, this is an unexpected object to them so it just doesn’t register in their mind, sadly so! On the other hand, if a driver is driving a road where he or she frequently sees motorcycles, they will be expecting to see a motorcycle, and therefore, if a motorcycle enters their field of vision, it is much more likely that the motorcycle will register in their mind.
Consider the following famous psychology experiment conducted by Professor Christopher Chabris of Harvard University and Professor Daniel Simons of the University of Illinois:
They asked participants to watch a video of a basketball game, and while they watched, to keep track of the number of passes one of the teams made or to keep track of the number of passes that were aerial passes versus bounce passes. To the participants, this seemed like a straightforward task but there was a twist the participants didn’t know about until after the experiment was finished! As part of the experiment, the researchers had a woman wearing a full gorilla suit walk into the middle of the basketball game, turn her head toward the camera, thump on her chest several times, and then walk off. After the participants were finished watching the video and counting the passes, they were asked if they had noticed anything “unusual” during the basketball game. Amazingly enough, fifty percent of them said, “No!” Moreover, most of these people were shocked to find out about the gorilla and were in disbelief they had not seen it. What makes this even more shocking is that the gorilla was on the screen for a total of nine seconds!!! To get a sense of just how long this is, watch the second hand of a clock for nine seconds while you visualize a gorilla thumping on her chest! Bottom line, the human mind does not work like a video recorder as many people seem to think! Your eyes may take in all of your surroundings but the mind filters this information according to the primary task at hand before it is fully processed. Thus, the drivers of cars and trucks don’t always see a motorcycle when they turn across traffic, change lanes, or even come to a stop at a traffic light because they just weren’t EXPECTING to see a motorcycle. When the mind doesn’t expect to see something, it doesn’t always register.
Perhaps a public awareness campaign on this issue would have a positive effect on drivers’ ability to see motorcycles. If we drill into drivers’ heads that they should always expect a motorcycle to be sharing the road with cars and trucks, perhaps they would be more likely to actually perceive a motorcycle when they encounter one on the road! Perhaps yellow caution signs that simply said, “Look For Motorcycles” might significantly reduce the motorcyclist fatalities and catastrophic injuries we so often see in motorcycle accident personal injury cases.
Of course, for every motorcycle accident caused by inattentional blindness, there are hundreds more near misses due to this psychological phenomenon. Almost anyone who has been riding motorcycles for a while has experienced a close call due to inattentional blindness. The attorneys at the May Firm are dedicated motorcyclists themselves, often enjoying a weekend cruise up the beautiful California coast to Big Sur. This gives them special insight into motorcycle accident cases.
With their legal knowledge and passion for motorcycle riding, the lawyers at The May Firm have a very successful track record with personal injury cases involving motorcycle accidents. Their enthusiasm for motorcycles gives them the “inside knowledge” needed to make a jury fully understand such damages as “loss of enjoyment of life” and award their clients fair compensation. If you or a loved one has been involved in a motorcycle accident, and you need a motorcycle accident lawyer who will truly understand what you are going through and has the skills and track record to win your case, call The May Firm today.
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