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How inattentional blindness may lead to an auto collision

Motor vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians all have to follow the rules of the road. However, when a driver is negligent, the results may easily be fatal for the other party.

Unfortunately, motorists who are paying attention to surrounding vehicles often fail to watch out for other types of traffic, especially foot traffic. Worse, even if a driver does look in the right direction, he or she may not see a potential hazard due to inattentional blindness.

What is inattentional blindness?

Faced with an overwhelming amount of visual data, the human brain tends to prioritize some information over others. A person may physically “see” something but fail to notice it because he or she is not looking for it or does not expect to see it.

Psychologists call this phenomenon inattentional blindness.

A recent Australian study shows how inattentional blindness may impact drivers. Participants reviewed a series of photographs taken from the driver’s view. In each image, study members identified potential traffic hazards. Researchers altered the final photograph to include either a motorcycle or taxi.

Of the 56 participants, 48% failed to notice any additional object, 31% did not notice the taxi and 65% did not notice the motorcycle.

What can drivers do to prevent inattentional blindness?

Researchers often call motor vehicle collisions involving inattentional blindness “looked-but-failed-to-see” crashes. Drivers may be able to minimize the likelihood of an LBFT accident by making a habit of specifically looking for motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians as well as other motor vehicles, and by making sure to stay focused on the road.