Just like people driving in enclosed motor vehicles, motorcycle riders have many concerns that affect their safety. There is the constant risk for sudden mechanical failure. On a motorcycle, even a flat tire could prove life-threatening. Bad weather, distraction and alcohol can all contribute to how likely someone is to get into a crash.
However, one of the biggest contributing factors to many motorcycle crashes is the failure of people in bigger vehicles to notice the motorcycles on the road. This phenomenon, known as inattentional blindness, has everything to do with how your brain prioritizes information and how risky it perceives someone or something to be. It could make it even more dangerous to ride a motorcycle in the winter than in warmer seasons.
How inattentional blindness impacts safety for motorcyclists on the road
The human brain can handle a huge amount of information. It will sift through all of the sounds, sites and other sensory information that you receive and direct your attention to what it considers the most important. Your brain will always prioritize safety threats as more important than other information.
Commercial trucks, an obvious oil slick on the road ahead and a driver swerving into someone’s lane are all likely to demand their attention immediately. A highly visible motorcycle directly in front of them or in the next lane may not mentally register with the driver.
While their eyes do perceive the vehicle and the motorcycle rider, their brain does not assign importance to that information. When they merge and end up striking the motorcycle driver, they will claim that they didn’t see them.
There is a way for drivers to overcome inattentional blindness
You have probably seen signs or bumper stickers advertising motorcycle safety awareness campaigns. The idea is to remind those in bigger vehicles to diligently check their surroundings for motorcycles. Taking a few extra seconds to double-check the environment for motorcycles, bikes and pedestrians can help a driver avoid causing a crash.
In the winter months when they expect most everyone will be in an enclosed vehicle, drivers are less likely to check their surroundings for smaller vehicles and pedestrians. In other words, even drivers who make every effort to safely share the road with motorcyclists may not be as attentive to the risk they cause for two-wheeled vehicles during the winter.