January 28, 2014
People May Drive Safer If More Motorcyclists Were On The Road
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The results of a new study indicate that if more people were to ride motorcycles it would translate into safer drivers across the board and there would be less accidents on the road.
Australian scientists writing in the journal Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics say that if more motorcyclists were on the road then it would be easier for other drivers to notice them. The research team found that because motorcycles are less common than cars on roads it makes it harder for motorists to notice them, leading to the common saying “I didn’t see you there.”
Researchers from Australian National University and Monash University studied how the “low-prevalence effect” increases the likelihood of an accident. They looked into how this effect could impair one’s ability to safely perform dynamic tasks, such as driving.
The team asked 40 adult drivers to step into a driving simulator experience to determine whether or not it would be easier for the volunteers to detect and respond to specific types of vehicles if they occur more frequently on the road. Drivers were asked to spot two types of vehicles: motorcycles and buses.
Although the drivers were instructed to search for both buses and motorcycles, the team found that the observers were biased toward whichever vehicle occurred more frequently during the simulated drive. They said that this in turn affected the speed at which drivers were able to detect low-prevalence targets.
When motorcycles occurred more frequently, the car divers were able to detect them on average from over 150-feet farther away than in tests where they occurred less often, which allowed the drivers an extra three seconds to respond if a collision were to occur. They also found that drivers had an extra 4.4 seconds to react to buses in situations where these vehicles occurred more frequently.
The researchers believe that the findings suggest that a driver’s inability to notice motorcyclists is due to the fact that motorcycles appear rarely on these roads, and that drivers are simply just not on the lookout for them. By increasing the prevalence of a visual search target, it could effectively make it stand out better within a specific visual environment.
“Drivers have more difficulty detecting vehicles and hazards that are rare, compared to objects that they see frequently,” Vanessa Beanland, of The Australian National University, said in a statement. She said she believes that the ability to accurately perform visual searches is crucial to ensuring safe driving and avoiding collisions.
These findings could be used for more than just helping people to potentially become a safer driver. The research could also help a person’s ability to search through many static image scenarios, such as someone who screens airport luggage.