What’s a “looked-but-failed-to-see” wreck?

If you’re like most motorcyclists, you are already familiar with this issue: You know you’re in plain view of another motorist in a passenger vehicle, but they still almost drive right into you – and you’re scared that one day you’re not going to be able to take evasive action fast enough to avoid a wreck.

Those kinds of incidents are called “looked-but-failed-to-see” (LBFTS) crashes, and they often happen because of something known as “inattentional blindness.”

What causes inattentional blindness?

Inattentional blindness is a phenomenon related to the way that the human brain works (or doesn’t work) as it tries to process information. Essentially, it’s what can cause a driver to look directly at – and through – a nearby motorcycle. Because the human brain has a limited capacity to absorb new information at once and can only focus on so many things at a time, a driver in a passenger vehicle or truck can look right at a motorcyclist and never actually process the fact that they’re there. That can cause the driver in the larger vehicle to turn right into the motorcyclist’s path, leading to devastating accidents.

Motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable to other drivers’ inattentional blindness because they are on vehicles that are smaller and less visible compared to cars or trucks. When a driver is not actively looking for motorcycles, their attention may be focused on other things, such as changing lanes, watching traffic signals and navigating around buses. As a result, they may not notice a motorcyclist – even if the motorcyclist does everything in their power to increase their visibility.

Although LBFTS accidents can involve just about anything or anybody out there on the road, motorcyclists seem to be uniquely prone to “disappearing” from the mental radar of the average driver. As one expert put it, “Motorcycles appear to be very low on the priority list for the brain when it is filtering information.” That’s likely related to the fact that there are far fewer motorcycles on the road than other vehicles, and usually only during certain times of the year. Drivers don’t expect to see them, so their minds simply don’t register them when they do.

If you’ve been involved in an LBFTS accident and suffered serious injuries, find out more about what it takes to get the compensation you need to protect your future and your family.