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The brain may harbor a perception dangerous to motorcyclists

Following a car-motorcycle crash, the motorist who was at fault for the accident may insist that s/he did not see the motorcycle, inferring that it was too small an object.

A university study indicates that this may have to do with how the brain interprets distances.

About the study

The 2013 study undertaken by a professor at Texas Tech University indicates that a driver is not able to judge the size of an object accurately, or how far away it is. This has to do with the way the human brain perceives the matter of distance. A driver who sees a small object may think it is farther away than a large object that is located at the same distance. The researcher studied fatal motorcycle accidents and found that 42 percent of the crashes involved a collision between a vehicle that made a left turn in front of an oncoming motorcycle. In such collisions, the motorist either believed the motorcycle to be farther away than it was or did not see it at all.


Participants in the study believed that a large, distant object would hit them sooner than would a small, closer object. Consequently, the results pointed to what the researcher referred to as the “size-arrival affect.” The human brain has a perception problem related to object size, distance and rate of speed.

Dealing with the aftermath

To think that there may be an issue with the way the human brain judges the proximity of a motorcycle is unsettling. “I simply did not see it,” is the excuse an attorney often hears. However, that does not exonerate a driver who is responsible for a vehicle-motorcycle crash. Given the severe injuries a rider can sustain, it should be remembered that a motorcyclist has the same rights as any other driver on our roadways, and those rights must be protected, if need be, in a court of law.