Many drivers involved in a collision with a motorcycle state after word that they didn’t see the motorcycle. A recent study recently published in the journal Attention, Perception & Psychophysics examined why drivers might say that.
According to researcher Vanessa Beanland of the Australian National University, “The fact that motorcycles are less common than cars might make it harder for car drivers to see motorcycles.”
Using a driving simulator, the study tested the ability of 40 adult drivers to detect and respond to motorcycles and buses on the roads. During the simulation, half of the participants were shown a high number of motorcycles and a low number of buses, while the other half of the participants were shown the reverse. All participants were told to be on the lookout for both motorcycles and buses. The study found that the drivers’ attention favored whichever of the two vehicles they saw more of during the simulation, and this affected the speed at which they detected the vehicles.
Participants who saw motorcycles more often were able to detect them an average of 167 feet farther away than those who saw motorcycles less often. Driving at a speed of 37 miles per hour, this additional distance gave the drivers an extra three seconds to respond. At the same speed, drivers who saw buses more often had an extra 4.4 seconds to react. The findings suggest drivers often fail to see motorcyclists partly because motorcycles are not common on roads. Researchers concluded that drivers have more difficulty detecting vehicles and hazards that are rare, compared to those objects seen more frequently.