It is a common misconception that humans see with their eyes. Yes, you read that correctly. The eye is only collecting visual information, such as light, distance, shape, color, texture. That information is then relayed to the brain which assembles the image that we see in our mind. This is not intended to be a lesson in science, but a basis to understand how flawed the human eye is and the implications for those on the road.

The limitations of sight

If the human eye were to relay all the information it takes in, the brain would produce a blurred image. To avoid this, the brain has learned a trick called saccadic masking. Saccadic masking is when the brain selectively blocks certain eye movements to reduce blur and replaces them with a very recent memory to fill that gap in time.

Another limitation comes down to under-developed observational skills. We have been trained that objects that are smaller, are further away. When a motorcycle is observed, the brain dismisses the object as a safe distance away, and thus, non-threatening.

When the automobile driver is responsible

Motorcycles are hard to see, but it doesn’t mean they’re impossible to see. Here are some of the common causes of motorcycle crashes.

  • Left-hand turns. Automobile drivers are prone to panic when it comes to left-hand turns, especially during times of high traffic. When an automobile driver makes a split-second decision while crossing traffic, motorcyclists are easy to miss.
  • Head-on collisions. Automobile drivers driving on the wrong side of the road, whether passing, or for some other reason, can easily miss seeing a motorcycle. The resulting head-on collision is very likely to be deadly only for the motorcyclist.
  • Motorcycle lane splitting. While not permitted in Indiana, some states allow motorcyles to drive between lanes of traffic. In states where this is permitted, an automobile driver, not paying close attention, may fail to see motorcycles and collide.

Drivers on the road who fail to check blind spots, or take a second look are likely to miss significant visual cues thanks to saccadic masking. When drivers miss visual cues, motorcyclists face serious injury or death.