Study highlights differences in visual attention of drivers and motorcyclists

Motorcycle collisions could be caused by riders and car drivers seeing different things, despite being on the same stretch of road.

That’s according to the findings of new research into motorcycle collisions and injury prevention, carried out by Bournemouth University and DocBike – an injury prevention charity.

The project assessed neurological and cognitive influences of motorcyclists and car drivers.

It explored participants with varying levels of motoring experience and qualifications. It was made up of four main parts:

  • Identifying motoring experience, training, and annual mileage
  • Questionnaires about general risk propensity and need for excitement
  • Eye-tracking by watching videos and viewing images of roads which have a high number of motorcycle collisions
  • Optional semi-structured interview for motorcyclists.

Data from the study indicates that car drivers and motorcyclists have different visual attention patterns, due to the different types of hazards according to the vehicle type.

For example, the brain naturally sees larger objects, like lorries, as threats as opposed to smaller objects such as motorcycles.

Additionally, motorcyclist’s identification, perception, and knowledge of potential risk changes depending on their motorcycling qualifications and experience.

Shel Silva, a PhD researcher from Bournemouth University led the project. She said: “The research is suggesting that by understanding motorcyclists’ knowledge and identification of risks it is possible to better inform training and materials which appeal to motorcyclists.

“It is key to understand that motorcyclists do not need training about how to ride a motorcycle but would benefit from more skills regarding how to read the road and other road users.

“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 honour.”

Shel suggests that an effective way for a motorcyclist to be seen when approaching a junction is to make a lateral movement such as moving towards the centre of the road near the white lines.

This is because the movement of the motorcycle can trigger a visual orienting response in other road users, consequently drawing their attention to the motorcyclist.

8 February 2022

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