Inattentional blindness endangers smaller vehicles and pedestrians

From eating, drinking or grooming to using a mobile device, distracted driving behaviors can put everyone on the road at risk. However, in some cases, a driver may actually be looking in the right direction yet fail to notice a potential hazard that is in plain sight.

Researchers often call this type of collision a “looked-but-failed-to-see” crash. The cause of many LBFTS collisions seems to be a phenomenon known as inattentional blindness.

What is inattentional blindness?

The human brain can only process so much visual, auditory and other sensory data at one time. Often the brain filters out “irrelevant” information before a person becomes conscious of it. For instance, if a driver approaching an intersection is specifically looking out for other motor vehicles, he or she may overlook the presence of a smaller motorcycle, bicycle or pedestrian.

How does inattentional blindness affect drivers?

A study by the Australian National University demonstrates how inattentional blindness on the part of drivers may pose a risk to others on the road.

During the study, participants reviewed a series of photos taken from a driver’s-eye-view. In the final image, researchers digitally inserted a new, unexpected object: either a taxi or a motorcycle.

Of the 56 study members, 31% failed to notice the taxi, 65% overlooked the presence of the motorcycle and 48% failed to note any new object in the image.

How can motorists reduce the chances of an LBFTS collision?

For many drivers, operating a motor vehicle becomes routine. That can make it easier to overlook the unexpected. To avoid a looked-but-failed-to-see crash, motorists should make sure to be watchful for all types of traffic, including cyclists and pedestrians.