The most common type of crash involving a car and a motorcycle is at an intersection when a motorist makes a left turn in front of a motorcycle. All too often motorists will turn left into the path of an oncoming motorcyclist either because the motorcyclist is hidden by roadway features or because the motorist just didn’t “see” the motorcycle. In fact, Fighter pilots are taught to continually keep their heads on a swivel and their eyes always moving. Because, if you fix your gaze on one object long enough while you yourself are in motion, your peripheral vision goes blind.
Here is an example of an optical illusion which demonstrates potential issues with having a fixed gazed while driving. Below you see a rotating array of blue crosses and 3 yellow motorcycles. Now fixate on the center (watch the flashing green car). Note that the yellow motorcycles disappear once in a while: singly, in pairs or all three simultaneously, right? In reality, the 3 yellow motorcycles are continuously present, honest!
This is captively called “motion induced blindness” or MIB.
What is Motion Induced Blindness? MIB can best be described as the brain’s inability to process what the eyes see when the input becomes too complicated. So, it simply does not process some of the input, and things “disappear”. A commonly heard comment from drivers who have been in crashes, particularly ones in which the other vehicle approached from the side, is: “I never saw it coming!” And they really didn’t. I know what you are thinking…Given our peripheral vision, how does this happen?
This most often happens when we allow our eyes and attention to fixate on a point or object, and the brain is trying to process both the fixed point and multiple moving objects in the peripheral vision at the same time. The human peripheral vision is amazingly adept at picking up movement, and providing the brain a 3D moving picture of what is around us. We unknowingly short-circuit this ability by becoming visually fixated on a point for more than 2-3 seconds at a time, after which we are taking some of the brain’s processing offline, and it begins to miss moving objects and detail in the periphery.
Things to do:
- Remain alert and vigilant on the roads.
- Avoid driver fatigue and the additional pressure it places on your vision.
- Avoid driver distractions and remember that the road and road users need all of your attention.
- Do not repeatedly fix your gaze for more than a couple of seconds on any single object. The most dangerous target is the one that has NO apparent motion. This is the one you will hit without evasive action and also the one you will NOT see.
- Keep your eyes moving and scan, scan, scan…!
For more information on MIB please visit the following websites:
Here are a few links to information that will help you understand the challenges motorcyclists face on the roads today and what you can do to make the roads safer for all.