Do you ever get the feeling you're invisible? 

Turns out you may be right. A new study reveals some driver's brains may be wired to not see motorcycles.

A research project exploring motorcycle collisions and injury prevention in the UK, led by Bournemouth University’s PhD researcher Shel Silva, has found drivers and motorcycle riders literally see things differently. The research involved several data points– including eye-tracking of respondents while viewing videos and images of roadways or intersections. The results can help provide life-saving tips for riders.

Here are a few of their key findings:

  • Your eye has a natural blind-spot. Even your nose can obscure vision and 'hide' an oncoming motorcyclist.
  •  Your brain has developed an interest in things which are threats. Historically this was large objects or animals, today its semi trucks or busses– not motorcycles.
  • Our brains are very good at judging speed in reference to a fixed point. But the smaller a vehicle, the harder it becomes to accurately make that computation.
  • Motorcycles are often seen by drivers, but not remembered. This ‘looked but failed to remember’ phenomenon is more common in winter months, or the start of riding season.
  • Sometimes our brains fill in missing information. 

Silva explained, "The brain can experience saccadic masking, which is where it fills in the information when moving the eyes from one point to another and consequently a motorcyclist can be obscured in the saccadic mask."

It's similar to looking in a mirror and trying to see your own eye's moving. You can look from one eye to the other, and anyone can easily see your eyes are moving, yet you will not perceive any motion. Fast moving vehicles in an intersection can present the same challenge to a driver's brain, thus triggering this masking effect. Should your bike fall between these 'frames' the driver will be completely surprised when he hits you. Which might help explain the all too familiar he came out of nowhere remark heard at accident sites. 

So what can we, as motorcycle riders, do with this wonderful information? Silva suggests, "An effective way for a motorcyclist to be seen when approaching a junction is to make a lateral movement such as moving towards the center of the road near the white lines. This is because the movement of the motorcycle can trigger a visual orienting response in other road users, consequently drawing their attention to the motorcyclist." 

To learn more about the study and its findings visit DocBike.





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