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Safety First: “Motorcyclists Are Often Seen But Not Remembered”

A view of motorcyclist with traffic

Why Drivers Often Say They Didn’t See You

A report from The Daily Echo has the low-down on what causes accidents when motorcycles are involved – and believe it or not, the phrase “I just didn’t see them officer” may be more true than you think. 

PhD Researcher Shel Silva, is the mastermind behind a project in partnership with Bournemouth University and Dorset-based DocBike. In the project, all parties set out to do some top-notch work in the area of collisions and injury prevention – and when it came to statistics on road vision, they found different motorists were seeing different things. 


Confused? We were too. Just sit back and give this a skim, because it kind of makes sense. 

A view of motorists acknowledging each other

Source: ForCarDrivers

According to this project, there are a couple of factors at play:
“The brain has developed an interest in things which are threats,” explains the report.

“Historically this was large objects or animals. Nowadays, this would be buses and lorries and not small motorcycles.”

“Consequently, a motorcycle can easily be lost within the visual field – especially if there is a large vehicle immediately behind the motorcycle.”

A view of a motorcycle helmet on the road

Source: Maho-prentice

We kind of knew that already, but there’s more – the research has also found evidence of ‘looked but failed to remember’ errors. 

To some drivers, motorcycles are often seen but not remembered – and there’s not much that can be done about it..even if you’re in that car and you’re paying attention – even if you have your danger filter on manual –  your brain could still automatically dismiss something small like a Yamaha R3 or Honda Grom as less big, less threatening, less dangerous.

It’s a humbling thought, but one that could save lives – and according to Silva, the assessed neurological and cognitive influences of motorcyclists and car drivers is vital to the world of transport.

A view of a motorcyclist on a bridge in traffic

Source: ABC7 News

“By understanding motorcyclists’ knowledge and identification of risks, it is possible to better inform training and materials which appeal to motorcyclists,” she explains. 

“I know friends and people who have died or suffered life-changing injuries after being in motorcycle collisions. This research is really important to me and having the opportunity to help save motorcyclists’ lives is a personal honor.”

A view of a motorcycle and a few others under clouds and a blue sky

Source: How Stuff Works

We look forward to seeing more results from Silva’s project – who knows. Maybe technology’s newest machines such as Honda’s ‘Intelligent Driver Assistive Technology’ would help our human brains stay up-to-date on the fast-changing automotive and Powersports industry. 

What do you think? Drop a comment below, we love hearing from you. 

Be sure to also stay up to date via our newsletter, and as always – stay safe on the twisties.

*Title media sourced from Your Health Matters*
  1. The I didn’t see him/her is usually followed by “they were going flat out “. I was the victim of “did not see, was going flat out 12 months ago. Riding in beautiful weather, broad daylight, very light to minimal traffic, sealed road, riding with head light on, NOT speeding at all. The 74 yr old male towing a camper out of a layby/rest area, pulled up to the verge, looked in my direction ( I could CLEARLY see HIS EYES) then looked over his left shoulder and pulled out DIRECTLY in front of me ! I still cannot work, I still have 8 smashed ribs off my spine that will not heal and still require surgery, I am constantly taking heavy duty pain medication. This has affected my relationship, my mental health due to constant pan & frustration of not being a functional individual, unable to ride as well.

  2. SMIDSY “sorry mate I did not see you”

    SMIDSY manœuvre-a deliberate swerving to create lateral movement to alert a cage that your out there.

    Heading directly at a driver in a car getting ready to turn makes you a threat and your noticed.

    Yes they are all out to get you.

    1. It doesn’t make much sense to me to do something possibly dangerous, and certainly not expected by other drivers, including ones you have not noted as a threat. I prefer a fairly easy, and to me safer, method of getting a drivers attention, whether he be coming towards me, behind me, or from the side. I use a headlight modulator for much improved visibility from the front. Putting aside the “threat” factor, a “flashing headlight” (not actually flashing but appears to do so) will get a drivers attention, including a car entering your right of way from a driveway or side street. From the rear I have added a couple LED brake lights that rapidly for a couple of seconds before lighting steadily. Drivers notice me. I might still be at risk but not because I won’t be noticed. I do also wear high vis gear, because it doesn’t cost anything so why not?

  3. As a motorcyclist, we must be aware of the fact we won’t be remembered. That then gives us the chance to avoid situations where we could be hit.

  4. when I started riding (55yrs ago)-mum (a car driver )made the comment that she did not know there were so many motorcycles on the road -she had never noticed them before

  5. One may be charged with driving without due care and attention.
    I am not prepared to let any driver off by their claiming that as a driver they “just did not see” something .
    They will avoid a pothole in the road or a dog running across , so why not a motorcycle which is much bigger!
    Due care requires the driver to stay alert to all road conditions and that includes motorcycles.
    This neuro psychology may be of interest in an academic way but is no excuse for the driver.

  6. Tips learned after 50 yrs of riding. If this helps just one person it will be worth it. Ok? Ok! Not saying I have all the answers. I am saying I have seen how the following makes a big difference.
    1. Ride like you are invisible! Ride defensively !
    2. Reflective gear is a good idea, white helmet way better than black, but light given off is far better! Yellow lights down on the forks super good idea!
    3. ATGATT period!
    4. When approaching a car at intersection, move back and forth gently, as opposed to riding perfectly straight !!!!! IT WORKS TRY IT!
    5. Bigger bikes tend to be seen easier than small bikes.
    Big bikes= Adventure and Goldwing types. Small bikes = bikes not like adventure bikes.
    6. Riding schools !!!

  7. Doulos, I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment. The “I didn’t see him “ excuse is just that an excuse for not paying attention to your surroundings. I’ve had drivers look me right in the eye while they pulled some life threatening stunt in front of me. We, as motorcycle drivers must be alert and aware of EVERYTHING within our area, but auto drivers can get out from under the equation by saying “I didn’t see you”? Sorry no excuse, academically or as a driver.

  8. I’ve been on or around motorcycles most of my younger days, now that I’m retired I would love to ride a cruiser and travel around. I’m just afraid because people in the Dallas Tx area are really BAD drivers. Should I go for it and take the chance?

  9. The problem is the vast majority of the motoring population are imbeciles.

    NO, I am not being cynical or whatever label you might lay on me for saying “The problem is the vast majority of the motoring population are imbeciles.” BECAUSE IT IS TRUE.


    We are constantly bombarded (by multiple means) with the fact that we are living on a planet of finite and rapidly dwindling resources but the majority of motorists choose to buy and drive large (absurd) SUVs… which
    1. Have a greater frontal area which equals greater aerodynamic drag, which of course equals greater energy consumption.
    2. Have greater weight which means greater inertia which
    means more greater energy consumption.
    3. Require more materials to construct… which equals more
    waste of other finite resources…
    3a. as well as more energy consumed to manufacture the extra materials required for construction.
    4. Have a higher centre of gravity so they are more likely
    to be in a collision due to loss of control of the vehicle.
    5. Are a greater danger to third parties because of item 4
    in this list.
    6. Are an even greater danger to third parties because the
    shear size of SUVs obscure the view of traffic ahead
    and to the sides of other road users.
    7. Are an even greater danger Again! to third parties because of their size and weight increasing impact and damage to said third parties….

    Yet the majority of motorists choose to buy and drive large (absurd) SUVs…

    Patently SUV owners/drivers are imbeciles,
    bullies and ignoramuses… which of course is the majority
    now of motorists.

    This especially goes for those SUV drivers that are most common…
    alone in the SUV that’s not carrying anything more than could be carried on a motorcycle…. on their daily commute to work FFS!

    They have the brains of sheep… that have been brainwashed.

  10. Funny how cops on bikes don’t seem to get hit. What happened to those “strobe” headlights that were introduced in the US back in the 1970s? Were they legal and were they effective? Drivers in NZ are as bad as anywhere, often aggressive, so I try to be visible and ride as though they cannot see me. Still alive at 75 and hope to continue

  11. I own a 18 Concours that looks bigger from the front than it is. I have always used my high beam and do on this bike. I have noticed I have fewer ” almost accidents” on this bike than any of the other 26 bikes i have owned. I ride 10-20mph over the posted speed usually. I figure a deer will be my undoing someday.

  12. There is a world of difference between “I didn’t see it” and “when I looked, I could see the entire road surface and there were no vehicles (or kids or animals) on it or about to enter it” .

    “I didn’t see it” should be viewed as a lame excuse and admission of careless.

    Drivers do tend to “see” what they want to see. If the driver’s thinking moves rapidly to the next action, he/she won’t register extraneous (unwanted) information.

    A failing of driver training, which seems to be aimed at how to pass the licence test.

    Peggy Hyde

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