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What is inattentional blindness?

It’s summertime and after being cooped up we are all more apt to go our for a run, bike ride or even hop on a motorcycle to feel the sun on our face and the wind on our backs.

It also means that there may be more accidents. Even in broad daylight and in plain sight, pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcycles are still hit at an alarming rate by car and truck drivers. Why is this?

Understanding inattentional blindness

Numerous studies by engineers, departments of public safety and even psychologists have shown that drivers can look in the direction of an oncoming person, and still not see them. It’s a phenomenon known as “looked but failed to see” (LBFTS). Drivers failing to accurately judge their own speed and distance from another person also contribute to crashes.

5 things a driver can do to avoid a LBFTS accident:

  • Maintain a clean windshield and car windows.
  • Know where your visual obstructions are in the car (the A-pillars that hold the windshield in place for example can be an obstruction).
  • Use more than just your sense of vision to assess the changing conditions on the road. Observe with all of your senses. Listen to what is happening (the roar or buzz of an oncoming motorcycle). Be aware of different smells that could alert you to an accident (smoke) or hazard (burning rubber from a near-crash or spin out). Limit distractions: do not eat food, do not crank the music and avoid looking at your phone screen. These will all improve your ability to not only look but also to observe. Summer vacation means teens are out of school, drivers should expect runners and bikers on the road and on the shoulder.
  • You need to pay attention to road signs and markers that alert you to changes in visibility or road junctures.
  • Rapidly changing weather requires changes in driving tactics. When a sunny day turns to rain or a fog rolls in, extend the space between you car and the car in front of you. Slow down. The speed limit is the maximum allowed, not the rate at which all vehicles should travel no matter what the conditions.

No one wants to get into an accident. None of us want to hurt someone else by neglecting to use caution. Being a defensive, aware driver who looks and also sees can save lives on the road this summer and in the future. Take care. Be safe.