The eyes have it - new research may show why drivers say 'SMIDSY'

Julie Rand's picture
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New research from DirectLine insurance seems to show that a minority of drivers don't 'notice' cyclists and walkers, despite being visible. Female drivers are worse than males and younger drivers are worse than everyone else: 31% fail to see cyclists, apparently.
Two cyclists ride over a speed cushion
Why don't drivers see us? New research may have the answer

However, CTC Campaigns Director Roger Geffen told BikeBiz:

“We already know that there is a difference between what people ‘see’ and what they ‘notice’, and all too often drivers fail to ‘notice’ cyclists even when they are squarely in the driver’s field of vision.

"I’d want to know more about this study’s methodology and the technology it uses, before concluding that it reliably shows that drivers are less likely to notice cyclists than pedestrians. After all, there are other possible reasons why drivers’ eyes might be more prone to movement when they notice pedestrians than when they notice cyclists.

"Yet despite these reservations, I do have a hunch that drivers are more likely to fail to spot cyclists than pedestrians. The SMIDSY excuse – 'Sorry mate I didn’t see you' – does seem more common when drivers hit cyclists and motorcyclists than when they hit pedestrians.

"But even if this was true, it would be really useful to know whether this problem is inevitable, or can we expect it to reduce as cycle use increases. In other words, are drivers more likely to notice cyclists in towns or in countries with higher rates of cycle use? Or are drivers more likely to notice cyclists if they also cycle themselves?"

Traffic expert Dr Ian Walker from the University of Bath echoed Roger's comments, saying: "I have various questions about the methods. Most critically, it appears that the measure taken is whether or not other road users were fixated in a driver's central vision."

Meanwhile, an RAF pilot as his own theory as to why humans appear to not 'see' objects in their line of vision.


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