Why do people in motor vehicles fail to spot cyclists?

On Behalf of | Sep 8, 2022 | Bicycle Accidents |

Technically, bicycles are vehicles even though they don’t have a motor. As a cyclist, you have to follow many of the same rules as those in motorized vehicles. You drive on the same side of the road, and you need to indicate your intention to turn or stop for the safety of yourself and others in traffic.

You need to abide by traffic signs and lights, as well as defer to police instructions when there is a collision or detour nearby. Cyclists often take great pains to carefully follow the law and to keep their bikes and gear in peak condition for their own safety. Unfortunately, they can still wind up hurt or even killed by drivers who never noticed they are there.

Why is it so hard for people in four-wheeled vehicles to spot cyclists and pedestrians?

Inattentional blindness affects everyone at the wheel

Processing visual information is a task that requires a lot of your brain’s effort. The more visual information you have at any given moment, the more your brain does on a subconscious level to sort and evaluate that information.

It will only pass on details that seem crucial, leading to inattentional blindness. When you are at the wheel of your car traveling at high speeds, your brain has to sort huge amounts of visual information to keep you safe. It will draw your attention specifically to factors like a huge semi-truck across the intersection from you or an SUV tailgating you rather than a bicycle in the next lane.

The bicycle represents very little risk to a driver in a practical sense. It is only by intentionally thinking about pedestrians and bicyclists that a driver can overcome the brain’s impulse to view such objects as non-threats and therefore not worthy of mental focus.

Drivers should prioritize the safety of everyone around them

All too often, people distract themselves at the wheel by calling a friend or singing along to the radio. They multitask and try to occupy their time rather than making safety the top priority. Failing to notice the cyclist across an intersection or in the next line of traffic is not an excuse for causing a collision.

As a cyclist, you cannot control what people in motor vehicles do, but you can take some steps to make yourself more visible. Additionally, you can consider learning defensive biking techniques so that bad choices by others will be less likely to cause significant concerns for you. Learning more about the top causes of bicycle collisions can help cyclists protect themselves when sharing the road.