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Illinois Left Turn Motorcycle Accidents: Is the Brain to Blame?

About 79 percent of accidents that involve a motorcycle and another vehicle occur when the driver pulls out of a side street or turns left in front of the motorcyclist. Our Bloomington motorcycle accident attorneys have represented many victims of these types of crashes. We’ve heard the passenger vehicle driver say that he didn’t realize the motorcycle was so close or that he thought he had plenty of time to turn. We wonder why so many drivers make the same mistakes. A new study may have found the answer. One scientist believes that left turn Illinois motorcycle accidents may be due to the way our brain perceives small objects rather than bad judgment.

Dr. Pat DeLucia is a psychologist at Texas Tech University. She studies the way the human brain perceives objects, their size, their motion, and how long it will take for the object to impact. Although she initially chose this research because of her interest in baseball, she soon realized that her findings could explain the frequency of car-motorcycle crashes.

According to Dr. DeLucia, the brain has two ways of determining how long it will take an object to reach us:

  1. As we look at a moving object, an image of the object is imprinted on the retina. As the object moves closer, the amount of space the image takes on the retina gets larger. The brain uses the change in size to accurately calculate when the object will hit.
  2. When an artist draws a picture, he makes objects in the foreground larger. The brain uses a similar shortcut; it interprets objects that produce larger retinal imprints as being closer. Smaller objects will be interpreted as being farther away. Since motorcycles are smaller than cars, the brain interprets them as being further away. This produces an inaccurate estimate of time till impact.

Dr. DeLucia tested this idea using computer simulations. Volunteers watched the approach of big, far objects and small, near objects. They were asked to choose the object that would hit first. The participants consistently chose the larger objects despite artist cues showing relative size.

This misperception could cause drivers to misjudge when a motorcycle will arrive at an intersection and may be a contributing factor in Illinois left turn motorcycle crashes.

The study was published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science. Dr. DeLucia’s next step is to determine how these findings can be used to prevent motorcycle crashes. She believes that awareness of motorcycles may be enough to prevent crashes.

Other studies agree. It’s been shown that drivers who ride motorcycles or have friends who are motorcyclists are less likely to be involved in an Illinois motorcycle crash.

You can help our Bloomington motorcycle attorneys raise awareness of motorcycles. Request your free Watch for Motorcycles sticker and place it on your bumper, backpack or anywhere it will be seen. To order your complimentary sticker, fill out the form below or contact Hupy and Abraham at 800-800-5678.

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham