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Why do people in vehicles cause so many bicycle crashes?

On Behalf of | Feb 16, 2022 | Injuries |

The weather in Arizona is warm and mild enough that you could ride your bike all year round for transportation or exercise. You may spend time on your bike nearly every day, both on bike paths and on shared roads with motor vehicles.

You are probably acutely aware of how much risk comes from close proximity to motor vehicles. Although plenty of bicycle crashes only involve a bicycle, collisions that involve motor vehicles are responsible for the vast majority of severe injuries and fatalities suffered by cyclists.

The sad truth is that even people who think of themselves as safe drivers can cause crashes with bicyclists. Why do people in motor vehicles cause so many cycling crashes?

People in cars look at bikes without seeing them

When a driver gets out of their vehicle and immediately claims that they didn’t see you before hitting you, you probably doubt them. You may assume that they don’t want to admit fault and would rather lie.

However, cognitive research supports their claim that they never noticed you. Researchers have found that inattentional blindness is a major issue while someone operates a motor vehicle. So much of your brain’s effort goes into processing visual information that it has to prioritize different details while you drive.

Your brain will sort through the visual information it receives and prioritize what it thinks might affect your safety. Big vehicles, potholes and other obvious safety risks will draw someone’s mental attention. Pedestrians and cyclists often do not. A driver can look right at a cyclist across the intersection from them and never mentally register that the person is there.

How do you combat inattentional blindness?

As a cyclist, you obviously want drivers to notice you and not hit you while you are out for a ride. You can protect yourself by investing in visibility gear. Lights, brightly-colored clothing and reflective gear can all help draw the attention of drivers to you.

However, awareness by drivers is the only real cure for inattentional blindness. Promoting cyclist awareness and safety campaigns, and using bike lanes when possible can reduce the risk of inattentional blindness in others causing a crash for you. Learning more about what contributes to cycling crashes can help you enjoy your sport without getting hurt.