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Inattentional blindness contributes to motorcycle wrecks

In the ultimate irony, last year, a 35-year-old man was on his way home from a visit to the hospital to see his friend who had been hurt in a motorcycle wreck. As he made his way back home on his own two-wheeled cycle, he, too, was involved in a collision with a car.

The Sonora man was lucky to survive. As it was, he spent a month in a coma and a total of six months in the hospital after the April 27 accident.

A spokesperson for the California Highway Patrol stated that in 2013, there were 475 fatalities for motorcycle riders and 13,143 injured while riding. That is 60 more deaths than the prior year, which was also more than in 2011.

Some possible reasons for the uptick in the number of fatalities on motorcycles include the dual psychological phenomena of change blindness and inattentional blindness.

Inattentional blindness has been a focus since the final years of the last century. Two professors conducted experiments where they had multiple people watch a video of people passing basketballs to one another. They were told to count how many times those who were wearing white completed a pass.

Halfway through the video, someone in a gorilla costume strolled onto the middle of the basketball court in full view of those watching before walking away. Although 90 percent of those watching stated that they would notice an occurrence of that kind, only half of them actually noticed.

One professor concluded on a website, "When people focus on a task that demands their attention, they often fail to notice unexpected objects and events that occur in full view." He called the phenomenon "inattentional blindness," as observers usually are not conscious of their perception of events and approaches that are not the focus of attention.

An Australian researcher and author also wrote about "change blindness," where something in one's visual field changes abruptly, yet movement detectors are disrupted due to attentional mechanisms.

While these concepts are certainly interesting, those motorcyclists who are injured may prefer to focus on seeking compensation from at-fault drivers for their damages, injuries and pain and suffering.

Source: The Union Democrat, "Inattentional blindness a possible contributor to motorcycle accidents," Lydia Browning, April 13, 201

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