University study urges bike awareness training

Motorcycle crash road safety first aid SMIDSY scientific university

Motorcycle awareness should be included in all driver training and increased in safety campaigns, according to the authors of an Australian National University study.

It found that drivers are twice as likely to miss seeing a motorcycle compared with a taxi and admit they do not expect to see motorcyclists.

Riders refer to this phenomenon as SMIDSY (Sorry Mate, I Didn’t See You), but the study refers to it as “inattentional blindness” resulting in “looked-but-failed-to-see” (LBFTS) crashes.SMIDSY cause crashes university

These are the most common type of collision involving motorcycles, according to the 2017 US Motorcycle Crash Causation Study.

The Alliance of British Drivers even produced a video which explains one of the scientific principles of SMIDSY called saccadic masking. Click here to read more.

Overloaded drivers

Now, the Australian National University study, “Allocating Attention to Detect Motorcycles: The Role of Inattentional Blindness”, has found that drivers are overloaded with more sensory information than the brain can handle.

“So our brain has to decide what information is most important,” the study reports.

“The frequency of LBFTS crashes suggests to us a connection with how the brain filters out information.”

University researchers Kristen Pammer, Stephanie Sabadas, and Stephanie Lentern asked 76 participants to look at photographs taken from the driver’s perspectives and determine if it was safe or unsafe.

Kristen Pammer university researcher
Kristen Pammer

The final photograph included an unexpected object, either a motorcycle or a taxi, which was not noticed by 48% of all participants.

Of those, 65% did not detect the motorcycle while 31% did not notice the taxi.

University experiments

In other experiments, drivers modulated their attention to accommodate motorcycles when necessary, suggesting that motorcycles are given the least amount of attention.

Participants said they believed a motorcycle was just as likely to be on the road as a taxi, but admitted they would be far less likely to notice the motorcycle.

SMIDSY crash scientific university
SMIDSY crash

However, participants who have a motorcycle licence were more likely to notice the motorcycles.

Rider aware

Kristen and her coauthors say their study highlights the need to encourage drivers to be more motorcycle-aware with special training for novice drivers.

“Motorcycles appear to be very low on the priority list for the brain when it is filtering information,” Kristen says.

“By putting motorcyclists higher on the brain ‘radar’ of the driver, hopefully drivers will be more likely to see them. In the meantime, we need to be more vigilant, more active, and more conscious when driving.”

Kristen says there are many ways drivers can be made rider-aware, including advertising campaigns.

“I would put it into driver training programs (and ongoing driver awareness programs) where everyone who drives must also experience what it is like to ride a motorbike,” says Kristen who doesn’t ride but has brothers and friends who do.

“We know that people who ride or have a friend or relative who rides are less likely to miss the motorcyclist in our study.

“If we could have everyone pass a simulator motorbike riding test – I bet it would make a big difference.”

10 Comments

  1. Inattentional blindness is in part a psychological phenomenon and part biological. Evolutionarily Most of our attention is aimed at finding food finding threats and finding mates. Food tends to be certain colours and shapes the same with threats so things that mimic those colours and shapes get noticed first,
    Things that don’t match need to be looked for and if you’re not trained to look for them and or don’t expect to see them you can bump into them before you do.
    Wearing a bright yellow jacket may be eye catching but yellow is a food colour so it is not registered as a threat so if you wear some of the hivis stuff you are supposed to you may only making your corpse easier to find.

  2. I recommend all riders watch the join the ride. Should be advertised Australia wide. There should be advanced rider training in Albury Wodonga. To get training we have to go to Melbourne or Sydney. The costs iinclude accommodation and course costs.
    Car drivers are taught to get their licence not hot handle a car.

  3. The original proposal for the Shepparton based Driver Education Centres of Australia (DECA) included driver/rider training for all Secondary school students. The end intent was that all year 12 graduates would be car & bike licenced.
    Of course then politicians and commercial interests got involved and the current format of Driver/Rider training is less than it could be.
    The other shortfall in this article is the risk perception of car drivers. CARRS in Brissy did a study that showed random vehicles approaching an intersection, trucks, always given way to, cars mostly given way to motorcycles occasionally. Or put another way, in rick perception terms, Truck could kill me, Car might kill me, Motorcycle no risk to me.
    The participants in the study that were prepared to pull in to the path of Motorcycles on the simulator, “didn’t see it”, sound familiar?

  4. There is adequate scientific evidence to show that some drivers simply do not see motorbikes (bicycles, whatever) even when looking directly at a single headlight coming toward them or from the right. Their brains simply do not register this. How many times have you been looking for something and eventually found it right in front of you even tho you know you’ve looked there several times ? Similar thing applies to some car drivers. This can be corrected with training which should be done during driving instruction….but it won’t be. Trying to change the ingrained habits of most people is a waste of time so better be pro active and save yourself .
    One thing which should be done immediately and which will have an immediate positive effect is to repeal the law prohibiting headlight modulators. If bikes’ headlights were fitted with a modulator operating on high beam during daylight hours, this has been proven (overseas) to wake up drivers who cannot “normally” see a bike within their field of vision.
    I have LED head and passing lights on the Venture and can and do ‘strobe’ these lights with the passing light switch if ever I think there is a collision risk particularly at intersections. I’ve seen car drivers stand on their brakes when they realize that there is a bike approaching which has the right of way. Headlight modulators could certainly prevent head on and T-bone accidents as would strobe stoplights help prevent tail end shunts, but strobe stop lights are not allowed.
    Cheers.

  5. I wonder how much this university study cost. Whatever the pirce tag, it would have been cheaper to go to a bike pub and buy the riders a round of drinks and listen.
    However, what we have bought here is some potential credibility with authorities who would not know one end of a bike from the other and would ignore the study anyway.

    Oh golly gosh those poor overloaded driver brains. Are motorcyclists somehow not overloaded? Or should we replace the term “overloaded” with “distracted”?
    Generally motorcyclists are not formulating their next tweet/FB update/email while controlling the vehicle.

    “The final photograph included an unexpected object, either a motorcycle or a taxi, which was not noticed by 48% of all participants.”
    I wonder what would have happened if the motorcycle in that picture was a police bike?

  6. The REAL problem exists when we have idiots that have never ridden making recommendations and or formulating Laws based on here say and NOT actual factual evidence. Riding instructors that are not old enough to have amassed some decent knowledge and skills they can pass on.

  7. It’s not something new. How to scan for ‘targets’ uses this technique. But I agree it should be promoted as the technique for things like driving, or crossing the road. You can experiment as to the validity of this technique by trying to find someone in a crowd.

    1. Where’s Waldo!
      Drivers should have to play that game but it needs to be changed up with things like find Waldo on a bike in a fire engine crossing the road all of which most drivers seem to be unable to see when they do stupid things like drive into fire trucks with lights and sirens on because they can’t see them due to all that information overloading their pea brains

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *