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Why can’t drivers see motorcycle riders?

One of the first lessons every new rider learns is that automobile drivers don’t easily notice motorcycles on the road. In fact, drivers who make direct eye contact with a motorcycle rider at an intersection still may not realize that the rider is there.

This phenomena has resulted in many motorcycle accidents, which are oftentimes fatal. So what is causing this lapse in judgement and can it be fixed?

Size and shape

Some researchers have suggested that the small size and shape of a motorcycle can cause the vehicle to appear to be traveling slower from further away than it actually is. This can easily cause a lapse in a driver’s judgement when making decisions to merge or turn. In these situations, a driver fails to see the motorcycle where it truly is.


Others have said that because of the size and shape of a motorcycle is out of the ordinary, our brain takes longer to process what our eyes see. Though the time this takes is minimal, it may not be long enough to recognize a motorcycle while making a quick decision at an intersection. If the speed of the motorcycle is faster than it takes us to fully recognize that the motorcycle is there, a collision can easily occur.

Inattentional blindness 

The concept of inattentional blindness suggests that the reason our brain has difficulty processing the presence of a motorcycle when we see one is because we are not looking for them — not simply because they are less common on the roads. This would mean that if drivers are intentionally looking to see if a car or a motorcycle may be present, they are more likely to notice a motorcycle.

The Department of Transportation suggests wearing bright colors, using headlights at all times and wearing reflective material to stand out while riding a motorcycles.

If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident, it’s important to talk to a personal injury lawyer about what happened. Motorcycles have the same rights to the road as automobiles and you deserve to be justly compensated for your pain and suffering whether the driver in the accident was expecting to see you or not.

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