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Just 'seeing' motorcycles not enough to prevent accidents

One of the most basic things that motorists are supposed to do behind the wheel is to watch out for others to avoid an accident. It should sound simple enough for drivers in Minneapolis to comply with that general rule, but just look at all the accidents that occur every day and it is clear that not every driver takes the responsibility to drive safely that seriously. 

Take, for example, motorcyclists. People in Minnesota do not ride their bikes all year long in this state, but still, there are hundreds of people who get hurt or killed in motorcycle accidents every year. Many of these crashes are caused by reckless drivers who fail to share the roads responsibly with a biker, but one study suggests that there may be another reason that motorcycles are so vulnerable on the road.

According to research conducted by a Texas Tech University psychologist, the size of a bike may contribute negatively to its visibility to others on the road. The researcher suggested that people's eyes can play tricks on them by taking some short cuts using visual cues. One of these short cuts is to assume that smaller objects are further away than larger objects. 

Using computer simulations, researchers showed subjects two objects approaching them. One was smaller and was travelling faster. The other was a larger object that was travelling slower than the smaller object. The results showed that people incorrectly assumed that the larger object was closer and would reach them faster than the smaller object. 

The results of this study would suggest that when people are driving, they may think that a small motorcycle is further away than it actually is which can affect their decision to pull out in front of the biker. But the fact is that some drivers do not even take the time to acknowledge the presence of a motorcyclist on the road before making that decision. They cut them off or follow them too closely, making it very likely that a person on a motorcycle will end up getting seriously hurt as a result. 

Source: Claims Journal, "Vehicle/Motorcycle Accident Link to Brain Miscalculation: Study," Sept. 10, 2013

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