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Study: error in human judgment may increase motorcycle accident risk

On Behalf of | Oct 20, 2021 | Firm News |

Motorcyclists in Bibb County, Georgia, are aware of the increased risks that often come with riding a motorcycle. Motorcyclists are more exposed, and when they are involved in major accidents, serious or even fatal injuries often result. Although each circumstance is unique, many motorcyclists find themselves in accidents caused by the driver of another vehicle. A new study has shed light on one possible reason that car drivers may be more likely to get into accidents with motorcyclists.

Judgment errors may endanger motorcyclists

A Texas Tech study suggests that some motorcycle accidents are due not necessarily to negligence on the part of either driver, but rather to an error in the way that the brain judges speed and distance. This error occurs more often with motorcycles than other vehicles simply because motorcycles are smaller.

Study participants were shown a computer simulation in which a large and small object were simultaneously approaching. The small object would arrive at the viewer first. However, when asked which object would hit first, participants consistently chose the larger one.

Researchers note that the brain has two ways of predicting how soon something will arrive. One way is to make a judgment based off of how an object’s size increases as it approaches. This is the most reliable way that the brain can gauge speed of approach. The less reliable way is more of shortcut: the brain perceives larger objects as being closer. The fact that participants in the experiment failed to appreciate how “close” the smaller object was indicates that they were likely using the shortcut, and using size – rather than changes in its size – to decide how soon an object would arrive.

The study theorizes that this error in judgment may adversely affect motorcyclists, since a motorcycle is smaller than a car and hence might appear farther away than it should. This could contribute to accidents like cars pulling out directly in front of motorcycles. It seems that even drivers who aren’t driving intoxicated or in a state of fatigue might be impaired when it comes to judging how to avoid accidents with motorcyclists.

Preventing motorcycle crashes

Motorcycle accidents remain a serious problem that deserves attention. The CDC reports the following statistics:

  • 4,502 people were killed in motorcycle accidents in 2010.
  • Between 2000 and 2010, motorcycle-related death rates increased by over 50 percent.
  • Between 2001 and 2008, more than 1 million people received motorcycle related injuries.
  • From 2001 to 2008, the number of people injured annually also increased, from an estimated 120,000 to 175,000.

The CDC recommends that motorcyclists wear helmets and protective clothing, avoid riding drunk and use caution when closely following people or driving on unsafe surfaces. Sadly, though, some motorcycle accidents cannot be prevented just by changes in the motorcyclist’s behavior.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, you should meet with a lawyer to discuss compensation for those injuries.