Study: Cognitive Flaws Make Motorcycle Accidents More Likely

A new study finds that motorcycle accidents can occur because of the way the brain works.

Although there have been numerous safety campaigns in Colorado over the past several years advising motorists to be on the lookout for motorcyclists, motorcycle accidents continue to happen. In 2011 alone, motorcycle accidents were responsible for 20 percent of traffic fatalities, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. The same problem also exists nationwide. According to the most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of motorcycle accidents resulting in injuries and fatalities spiked between 2001 and 2008.

When motorcycle accidents happen, many people are inclined to blame the motorcyclist. However, a recent study found that many accidents might occur because how the human brain processes information.

Findings of study

The study, published earlier this year, concluded that drivers often are slow to notice motorcycles because they do not observe motorcyclists on the road very frequently, compared to other vehicles. During the study, participants were asked to detect the presence of motorcycles or buses in a driving simulator. One group underwent a simulation featuring many motorcycles and few buses, while the other group had an opposite simulation.

During each simulation, the group's members were asked to search for and identify both types of vehicles. However, it was quickly discovered that each group's ability to find each vehicle was biased towards the type of vehicle that occurred most often in the simulation. As a result, those in the simulation with the high number of buses were much slower in identifying motorcycles and vice versa.

Specifically, in the simulation where motorcycles occurred more frequently, drivers were able to detect them an average of 51 meters earlier than the other group. Assuming the car was traveling about 40 mph, this would give the driver three extra seconds to react to the motorcycle, enough time to potentially avoid an accident.

Since drivers' biases were so quickly identified in the study, it suggests that drivers in real life may have significant problems noticing motorcycles on the road. This may be particularly true at the beginning of motorcycle season each year, as the cold weather and adverse road conditions have kept motorcyclists off the road for several months. The study also suggests that, despite taking all proper safety precautions while riding, motorcyclists will always face the possibility of an accident, because of the way other drivers perceive them.

Legal remedies for those in fatal accidents

The large difference in weight between motorcycles and other vehicles coupled with the little protection motorcyclists have against the force of an impact makes motorcycle accidents especially prone to fatalities. In many of these accidents, driver negligence, such as failing to keep a proper lookout, is to blame. Colorado law allows close family members of the decedent (i.e. spouses and children) to recover compensation for the loss of their loved one from the negligent driver in a wrongful death lawsuit.

If you are in this situation, it is advisable to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can listen to your situation and work to hold the responsible party accountable for their carelessness.

Keywords: motorcycle accidents, wrongful death