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Avoid Motion-Induced Blindness: How to Avoid Causing Scooter Accidents and Motorcycle Accidents

My daughter is a freshman in college and one of the first courses she took is called Cognitive Science.  This class is an amazing assortment of lessons on why the brain acts, behaves, perceives and reacts to different stimuli. One of the first lessons was on motion-induced blindness. It explains how the brain fails to see motion and objects that are obvious once pointed out because it is paying attention to something else. At the time I knew exactly what she was talking about. She didn’t realize it until I pointed it out, but she was talking about the spike in moped cases we are handling!

Over the past three years, we have gone from handling one or two mopeds vs car accidents per year to do that every month.

In our cases, mopeds are almost never at fault, they are almost always going at or below the speed limit, and the riders are almost always seriously injured. That makes for a solid injury case worth a lot of money. But it doesn’t make me feel good that I thought mopeds were almost being targeted.

According to a Palm Beach Post article, the statistics bear out exactly why our cases are increasing. In 2011, there were 64 moped crashes; there were 93 in 2012; last year the number rose to 135!

Conventional wisdom says the spike in gas prices over time drove many people to use scooters. I’m sure Florida’s year-round beautiful weather certainly helps too. I imagine using a scooter in New England between November and April would be a punishment. The cute designs and reasonable price point also help to make them a popular short-distance vehicle. But no matter how cute, efficient, economic, and useful the scooter is, there is no way to escape the danger of motion-induced blindness. Essentially both motorcycles and scooters are literally invisible to those people driving cars on the road.

When we drive there are loads of things to worry about and to which we must pay attention. Our minds are adept at driving and we get pretty good at watching the road, changing the radio and talking to our passengers. We drive generally safely multi-tasking while driving. So why is it that I hear this statement in every single motorcycle and scooter crash: “That scooter must have been speeding. It came out of nowhere! I looked and didn’t see it before I turned right into it!” In most cases the scooters top out at 45 mph, so a super speeding scooter is not an option for a good defense. Fortunately, neither is motion-induced blindness. A driver doesn’t get to say “Hey, the accident isn’t my fault, my brain failed to see the scooter because it was moving!”  The fact is that your brain has not been trained to recognize the motorcycle and scooter as an object of concern among the many things you’re paying attention to while driving. Well, that’s just too bad bubba because you’re still guilty for hurting the scooter rider, and you’re going to pay for the damages you caused.

Can we do anything about this? Yes, you can!

Three ways to avoid hitting a scooter:

1.Knowing and understanding that motion-induced blindness occurs is the first step. When you see a scooter or motorcycle on the road tell yourself that the physical form of a motorcycle/scooter is a danger to you. Train your brain to register it as a danger when it is in sight. Use every opportunity to program your brain. It’s not foolproof, but it’s a good start.

2.Many accidents happen at intersections. Double-check before pulling out. That scooter is coming at you, and its size and a slower rate of speed may not register the first time you look right or left. So stop and double-check. You’ll be happy you did.

3.Say the words “look out for scooters” at each intersection you go through on a green light.  You’d be shocked at the number of accidents that happen as drivers calmly glide through a green only to find a scooter in their lane on the far side of the intersection.  Many “rear-enders” with scooters happen this why. Saying the words will key your brain into looking out for not only scooters but motorcycles, bicycles and even joggers.

Be safe, but if you ever need an attorney please call me anytime.

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