The Centers for Disease Control previously reported that car and truck accident-related deaths reached a low point in 2008, but fatalities involving motorcycle collisions actually increased from 1999 to 2008, especially for 20-24 and 25-29 age groups.
While riding exposed poses many risks, a recent study conducted by a Texas Tech University psychologist and published in Current Directions in Psychological Science reveals that human judgment errors may play a role in how smaller objects like motorcycles are perceived.
The study took into consideration how the human brain picks up objects, with size, motion, and time to make an impact all variables. Out of these, size influences how people perceive distance; on the road, the researchers conclude, this leads to drivers miscalculating other motorists’ distance and speed.
Nevertheless, “judgment” itself is vague, and the study further found that when it comes to determining distance and speed, humans use two visual cues: optical invariant, or, in plain speak, an object grows in size when it gets closer, and what the study calls “rule of thumb,” in which someone uses depth cues to determine if an object is closer.
Through these two factors, motorcycles appear farther away, which leads drivers to inaccurately determine the time these smaller vehicles arrive at an intersection.
But regardless of whether or not other motorists can’t accurately perceive distance, motorcyclists are strongly advised to adhere to road safety. Along with wearing a helmet, this means being aware of other vehicles on the road as you make left turns – frequently a cause of collisions. Additionally, road conditions, from slick and slippery surfaces to potholes, and speeding further increase accident risks.