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Phenomenon is labelled “inattentional blindness”

New research published by the The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society suggests that drivers often fail to “see” motorbikers – and by extension cyclists – even when they look right at them.

Planetsave reports lead author Kristen Pammer, a professor of psychology and associate dean of science at Australian National University, as saying: “When we are driving, there is a huge amount of sensory information that our brain must deal with.

“We can’t attend to everything, because this would consume enormous cognitive resources and take too much time. So our brain has to decide what information is most important. The frequency of LBFTS [looked but failed to see] crashes suggests to us a connection with how the brain filters out information.”

Invisible cyclists: Eye-tracking experiment finds drivers don't see more than 1 in 5 riders

Researchers asked 56 adults to look at photos showing routine driving situations from a driver’s perspective. Participants were asked to decide if the situations represented safe or unsafe driving conditions.

In the final photograph, researchers inserted an unexpected vehicle into the scene — either a taxi or a motorbike. Half didn’t notice, and of those who did, two thirds identified the taxi while less than a third identified the motorbike.

The uniformity illusion: peripheral vision study may help explain why drivers fail to see cyclists

“Motorcycles appear to be very low on the priority list for the brain when it is filtering information,” said Pammer. One can only wonder where cyclists might rank in such a hierarchy.

Failure to notice an unexpected object located in plain sight is termed ‘inattentional blindness’.

The best-known study demonstrating the phenomenon centred on this video.

In most groups, 50 per cent of subjects do not report seeing the gorilla.

Pammer and her coauthors believe their study highlights a need to encourage drivers to be more motorcycle-aware when learning to drive.

"By putting motorcyclists higher on the brain 'radar' of the driver, hopefully drivers will be more likely to see them. In the meantime, we need to be more vigilant, more active, and more conscious when driving."

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

51 comments

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mickdann [52 posts] 5 days ago
1 like

Thanks for posting this, you beat me to it. It was also published in the IAM magazine some years ago and it really does explain why we don’t see things when “scanning” with our eyes, the brain literally blanks out what you see when you sweep your eyes rapidly. The principles should be in the Highway Code and sent out with every driving licence as it if more people understood that they need to “look” differently it would prevent a lot of SMIDSY’s.

Full original article is also worth a read:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/elegi6k9amk8spw/1211%20Road%20Survival%20Guide...

Mick

 

stifflersmom wrote:

This is an interesting perspective from fighter pilot experience, on how the brain processes visual information, explaining why cyclists and motorcycles aren't seen. The advice on moving your head to see past door pillars is particularly pertinent in modern vehicles with wide pillars.

http://www.londoncyclist.co.uk/raf-pilot-teach-cyclists/

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brooksby [2794 posts] 5 days ago
2 likes
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

the gov/justice system is only interested in margins of errors if it favourts motorists, 'moments inattentuiion' etc. A couple of years ago a child fell off a shared use path, the motorist that hit her didn't ease off the gas pedal, nor did anyone else. Everyone said it was the mothers fault for not looking after the child properly or it was an 'accident' and that the driver couldn't do anything to avoid the child.

This is BS, they were a couple of feet away from a child on a bike who happened to be on a path and people still think doing 40/50/60mph is acceptable. The incident was totally avoidable IF drivers were bothered to assess the risk they were presenting to others if they make a small error which without them being there no harm would come about.

 

Was that the case in Weston-super-Mare?

I think the driver said that they hadn't moved out because the child wasn't on the road so why would they?

(The child was wobbling along on a narrow shared use path which is *right next to* a 60mph speed limit road with no barriers etc and the driver didn't think they needed to take anything not on the road into consideration...)

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Chris Hayes [189 posts] 5 days ago
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I guess the corolloy of the title is that if drivers did see cyclists then they subsequently decided to run them over on purpose.... in reality I think that there is plenty of evidence to suggest that most drivers are incapable of concentrating fully for some long or even short journeys: there are physical distractions and the mind wanders....as does mine when I'm on long bike rides.   Like many riders I've taken to wearing bright overshoes - as they rotate - and bright, flashing day lights in the hope of catching their attention.  This sometimes irritates some, but at least I know they have seen me.  And if they do cut me up then they've have done it on purpose.   

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Chris Hayes [189 posts] 5 days ago
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I guess the corollary of the title is that if drivers did see cyclists then they subsequently decided to run them over on purpose.... in reality I think that there is plenty of evidence to suggest that most drivers are incapable of concentrating fully for some long or even short journeys: there are physical distractions and the mind wanders....as does mine when I'm on long bike rides.   Like many riders I've taken to wearing bright overshoes - as they rotate - and bright, flashing day lights in the hope of catching their attention.  This sometimes irritates some, but at least I know they have seen me.  And if they do cut me up then they've have done it on purpose.   

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brooksby [2794 posts] 5 days ago
1 like
Chris Hayes wrote:

Like many riders I've taken to wearing bright overshoes - as they rotate - and bright, flashing day lights in the hope of catching their attention. 

My ten year old daughter was terrified when her front reflector got broken and insisted that I get her a new one (even though I told her it wasn't a legal requirement so she wouldn't get in trouble for it). When getting one in my LBS they said that the best reflectors on most bicycles are the orange ones on pedals - they highlight non motorised movements as well as general location.

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ConcordeCX [560 posts] 4 days ago
4 likes
burtthebike wrote:

Every comment here, and the original research has missed the most important point: self preservation is the most powerful force on earth, and drivers conform to this and ignore things which are not a threat.  If all cyclists carried an AK-47, suddenly all drivers would see them.

at a railway station in France recently I was stopped and my saddlebag searched for machine guns and tear-gas grenades. I had to apologise because I hadn’t thought to bring any, but your suggestion could very well prove productive in the road safety sphere.

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maviczap [119 posts] 4 days ago
0 likes
brooksby wrote:
Chris Hayes wrote:

Like many riders I've taken to wearing bright overshoes - as they rotate - and bright, flashing day lights in the hope of catching their attention. 

. When getting one in my LBS they said that the best reflectors on most bicycles are the orange ones on pedals - they highlight non motorised movements as well as general location.

Yes, I'd read somewhere that having reflective patterns on tights, or lights on your legs makes you much more likely to be noticed by drivers because of the irregular movement or pattern of light that registers with the brain.

Much more so than flouro jackets

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BehindTheBikesheds [1132 posts] 4 days ago
2 likes
brooksby wrote:
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

the gov/justice system is only interested in margins of errors if it favourts motorists, 'moments inattentuiion' etc. A couple of years ago a child fell off a shared use path, the motorist that hit her didn't ease off the gas pedal, nor did anyone else. Everyone said it was the mothers fault for not looking after the child properly or it was an 'accident' and that the driver couldn't do anything to avoid the child.

This is BS, they were a couple of feet away from a child on a bike who happened to be on a path and people still think doing 40/50/60mph is acceptable. The incident was totally avoidable IF drivers were bothered to assess the risk they were presenting to others if they make a small error which without them being there no harm would come about.

 

Was that the case in Weston-super-Mare?

I think the driver said that they hadn't moved out because the child wasn't on the road so why would they?

(The child was wobbling along on a narrow shared use path which is *right next to* a 60mph speed limit road with no barriers etc and the driver didn't think they needed to take anything not on the road into consideration...)

Small child a few feet away AND seen wobbling and not one person including the killer did absolutely nothing, and police accepted this as behaviour that was acceptble/not dangerous!

And yet 9 months later  Charlie Alliston charged/convicted for manslaughter/WAF )respectively) supposedly not allowing the deceased 'wobble' room or room for an error in judgement despite him slowing signifcantly and swerving to avoid (at crica 10mph) and yet drivers doing 60mph a couple of feet away from a small child they could see they would present a massive danger to if they made even a small error get the 'nothing you could do' consoling words and let off?

I certainly would at the very least be moving to the centre line and easing off the gas when seeing that scenario especially given the ridiculously high speed limit.

The double standards/hypocrisy are incredible, it's this blindness to the dangers motorists and their vehicles present and that no error margin is expected to be given by them that kills and maims so many, yet is when the situation is a person on a bike it's totally different, why is that?

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giff77 [1288 posts] 4 days ago
2 likes
fizrar6 wrote:
giff77 wrote:
ClubSmed wrote:
fizrar6 wrote:
blodnik1 wrote:

Valbrona,I assume you are referring to the fact that lots of cyclists wear black.If you look properly at most tarmac you will see it is very pale grey and about as similar to jet black as it is to hi-viz colours.

Wrong , wrong, wrong. Tarmac is almost black when it is wet. Even when it is grey a black jacket will blend in and be harder to see than Hi-Viz. Are you saying black is the new Hi-Viz and people who work on Motorways like traffic cops and construction workers should now wear black ?

Oh dear.

 

The environment on a motorway is different as there aren't the buildings to contrast against so hi vis is a great option. Cyclists aren't allowed on motorways though....

And yet we see warning signs to be aware of construction workers while driving through roadworks.  Even then, the flouresent clothing and reflective decals do not guarantee these workers safety.

They're safer wearing Hi-Viz than they would be with black or gray. Do you think they just wear bright colours for fun?

To get back to the original topic, if the gorilla had been wearing a Hi-viz jacket more people would have seen him.

I'll refer you to my other post.  It doesn't make a jot what vulnerable road users wear.  Motorists simply do not pay attention to what's happening around them.  Once they are behind that wheel they focus only on the vehicle directly in front, what needs to be done that day and compelled to check their hand held device when it pings.  next time you're a passenger in a car take note what is happening around you and then ask the driver what they noticed, you might be surprised at what they miss.

When I drive I not only look at the vehicle in front but several vehicles ahead. I'm also looking out for people stepping out off the pavement and possible vehicles at side streets as well as cyclists and equestrians.  Driving is a skill that involves concentration at ALL  times.  That is why you need to be licensed.  You  are operating a large piece of powerful machinery in public.    

It makes little difference what percautions people take.  They will never be safe until motorists irradicate inattention and carelessness out of their driving routine. 

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zero_trooper [23 posts] 4 days ago
1 like

Burtthebike - I'll give you a like for 'pour encourager les autres'  laugh

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zero_trooper [23 posts] 4 days ago
1 like

Sometime ago in the comments section of a Road.cc clothing review, someone suggested that a hi-viz jacket with a large speedcamera logo on the back would be effective.

I really think that this would get driver's attention.

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nbrus [558 posts] 4 days ago
2 likes

I wonder if riding a bike with flashing blue lights while wearing a police uniform will help get drivers to notice you. It might also help reduce traffic offences ... bonus.

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Argos74 [459 posts] 4 days ago
2 likes

A cunning trick used by some motorcyclists - yellow jacket, white lid, black trousers - it looks close enough to a police motorcyclist to make drivers notice them a quarter second earlier. Not sure it'd work for cyclists as well, as every rider and their dog seems to be wearing yellow hi-viz these days (including me), and there's not so many police cyclists to form that pattern-recognition.

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burtthebike [1270 posts] 4 days ago
0 likes
zero_trooper wrote:

Burtthebike - I'll give you a like for 'pour encourager les autres'  laugh

Thanks.  Didn't realise you got bonus points for foreign phrases, but I'll try to slip a few in just for fun.  Should we have some kind of points competition and a green jersey?

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oldstrath [928 posts] 4 days ago
3 likes

Strange how they can still msnage to see "horrifically, terrifyingly" bright rear lights. That was the description one driver gave of my Exposure Tracer when she stopped to moan at me. Afraid I wasn't terribly sympathetic - something alomg the lines of "well at least you saw me" (some words omitted). I begin to fear this is the only solution - make sure every one of them feels the need to honk, then at least if they hit me it's because they are psychopaths, rather than just inattentive fuckwits.

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atgni [442 posts] 4 days ago
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RMurphy195 [121 posts] 3 days ago
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I can only recollect not "seeing" a cyclist on 3 occasions

1) While walking towards a car reversing out of a car park, I stopped and waited. Cyclist coming from other direction raced along car park, and swerved aroubd back of car without slowing down. Driver had to brake sharply. Maybe cyclist could see roof of car from his angle, certainly the back of it moving out - but driver's view blocked by the car she was parked next to.

2) Dusk on a dull day, Newhall st. Birmingham - car emerges from side turning, driver peering around parked cars. Black clad cyclist on black bike, with very tiny lamp twinkling on handlebars, almost collides with car (again, emergency stop). Even after I'd spotted the bike I still had difficulty seeing it!(I was walking a the time)

3) Me driving this time,  approaching traffic island near home - cyclist in bright clothing comes down road from my right - taking a "kerb-hugging" line around the island. Amazed I hadn't seem him, but my usual driving style meant I didn't hit the poor guy as he went past. It would have been my fault.

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RMurphy195 [121 posts] 3 days ago
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Rich_cb wrote:

Would be good if they did some follow up research to see if colours or lights etc had any effect.

Colours can have an effect, if you google "Advancing v Receding Colours" you will see what I mean!

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Ush [1035 posts] 3 days ago
1 like
oldstrath wrote:

Strange how they can still msnage to see "horrifically, terrifyingly" bright rear lights. That was the description one driver gave of my Exposure Tracer when she stopped to moan at me. 

Thank you. Now I know what I am buying as my next rear light.  I already have the front sorted out with a beam-spreading, non-German-pootle-bike-compliant MagicShine.

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Ush [1035 posts] 3 days ago
1 like
FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:
Rich_cb wrote:

Would be good if they did some follow up research to see if colours or lights etc had any effect.

 

And also to see whether serious negative concequences for failing to see had any effect (they could subject the testees to an immediately electric shock, say, if they fail to notice the cyclist).

And whether separating cyclists and motorists entirely did.

 

I wonder which of the three would have the greater effect?

Be careful.  You'll be banned from the roads "for your own safety, because .... science"

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ChairRDRF [367 posts] 2 days ago
2 likes

Good to see so many people who are justifiably fed up with the victim-blaming crap that gets chucked at cyclists (and also pedestrians, by the way).

 

The bottom line is that mtorists CAN "see" cyclists and other road users if they want to. Too mnay just can't be arsed.

 

It is also extremely important that we understand the negative role the "road safety" industry has played in shifting the burden of responsibility away from drivers by pushing for hi-viz etc.

 

See

http://rdrf.org.uk/2013/11/03/hi-viz-for-cyclists-and-pedestrians-the-ev...

http://rdrf.org.uk/2013/11/01/hi-viz-for-pedestrians-and-cyclists-and-th...

http://rdrf.org.uk/2013/10/31/hi-viz-for-cyclists-and-pedestrians-sensib...

http://rdrf.org.uk/2011/06/09/of-slutwalks-and-hi-viz-the-politics-of-vi...

http://rdrf.org.uk/2012/03/01/sorry-mate/

on this subject

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