The social stigma attached to motorcycle riding affects everything from how people behave in traffic to who a police officer blames after a crash. It is common for people to assume that the motorcycle rider likely did something wrong prior to a wreck. After all, motorcycles on television shows and in movies often drive like traffic laws don’t apply to them at all, which they don’t on the set of a movie.
In the real world, motorcyclists are often very cautious because they don’t want to die in a crash. They employ defensive driving skills, buy special gear for their physical protection and keep their vehicles in top-notch condition. Regardless of how safe you try to be, you are ultimately at the mercy of other people in traffic.
Even the safest motorcyclists could have a hard time avoiding the threat caused by other people in traffic.
Drivers don’t notice motorcycles
One of the most common reasons people give for causing a crash with a motorcycle is that they didn’t see the motorcycle. It is possible to explain this phenomenon. Psychologists call it inattentional blindness.
When the brain has a lot of information to sort, it focuses on safety-critical information and someone’s conscious mental focus. Given that motorcycles are smaller than passenger vehicles, the brain may not identify them as a threat. It will focus on other vehicles and environmental factors.
A driver across the intersection from you could look right at you and then make a turn despite your visible presence in front of their vehicle. They actually did see you, but their brain determined that your presence was not important enough to draw their attention to that detail.
No amount of visibility gear or alterations to make your bike noisier will completely eliminate the failures of other people to notice you in traffic. It is only through intentionally looking for motorcyclists, pedestrians and bicycle riders that drivers can prevent such crashes.
Many motorcyclists help protect themselves by driving defensively. When you treat everyone like they won’t follow the law and react accordingly, that extra hesitation or surveillance could protect you from a potentially fatal collision. Learning more about what causes motorcycle crashes can help those out for a ride stay safer.