Many car drivers who have just crashed into a motorcycle claim they didn't
see the other vehicle, and new research suggests one reason why they might say
The fact that motorcycles are less common than cars might make it harder for
car drivers to see motorcycles, said researcher Vanessa Beanland, of the
Australian National University, and colleagues.
They used a driving simulator to study the ability of 40 adult drivers to
detect and respond to motorcycles and buses on the roads. During the driving
simulations, 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
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All of the participants were told to watch for both motorcycles and buses.
However, their attention tended to favour whichever of the two vehicles they
saw more often during the driving 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. At
a driving speed of 37 miles per hour, this gave the drivers an extra three
seconds to respond.
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At the same speed, drivers who saw buses more often had an extra 4.4 seconds
to react to buses, according to the study, which was published recently in the
journal Attention, Perception & Psychophysics.
Vehicles and hazards that are rare
The findings suggest that drivers often fail to see motorcyclists partly
because motorcycles are not common on roads, and drivers aren't on the lookout
for them, Bean land said in a journal news release.
"Drivers have more difficulty detecting vehicles and hazards that are
rare, compared to objects that they see frequently," she said.
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