Sourced from Motorcycle News 21/06/2006, Written by Tom Rayner
THE PROOF THAT CAR DRIVERS DON'T SEE BIKES
MCN has teamed up with leading UK scientists in a world-first investigation to finally prove that car drivers can't see bikers. Professor Geoff Underwood from Nottingham University has received EU funding to carry out groundbreaking tests to find out why car drivers: "look, but fail to see motorcyclists".
Armed with a state-of-the-art EyeMark eye-tracker camera and a series of photos, provided by MCN, Professor Underwood's team is set to test car drivers in laboratory conditions to find out exactly what they do and don't see.
Professor Underwood said: "I want to cut the number of SMIDSY (Sorry Mate I Didn't See You) type accidents. I want to solve the phenomenon of the 'looked but failed to see' accident."
To do so he will show the participants a series of photographs of various road traffic scenarios and use the EyeMark camera to track their pupil movement.
The sophisticated technology can tell the Professor exactly when and where the car drivers are looking. In every image is a motorcyclist, in various levels of prominence. The test will attempt to discover when a rider is most visible.
The results will discover what a driver looks at first and why. For example, if bright colours attract the attention or if the drivers can spot potential hazards.
HOW CAN A CAR DRIVER LOOK AT YOU BUT NOT SEE YOU?
Professor Underwood has dedicated his professional career in cognitive psychology with the relationship between visual attention and skill.
He explained to MCN how a car driver waiting at a junction could look straight at an approaching biker and still fail to see them, thus causing an accident.
"The easiest way to explain this phenomenon is with the gorilla experiment," said Underwood.
"A group of American students shot a film which asked the viewer to count the number of catches a group of basketball players in white tops made. Another group in black tops were also passing the ball to one another at the same time.
"You are so busy trying to watch the white team that you completely miss the fact that a man in a gorilla suit walks into the middle of the screen and waves at you. It's only when you watch the film for a second time and are told to look for a gorilla that you see it - you won't believe you missed it first time because it's so obvious.
"The theory is the same for car drivers - they sit at a junction looking left and right for oncoming cars, vans and lorries. Because they're not expecting to see a motorcyclist then they don't see a motorcyclist.
"they have a hypothesis of what they think is going to happen in the world and stick to it.
"it's for exactly this reason that I think the DfT's 'Think Bike' signs at the road side will focus the concentration of car drivers to consider motorcyclists."
If you want to see how the experiment works then try it on your friends and colleagues. View it at: Movie 15