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Why Drivers Lack Motorcycle Awareness

Written by Tom Crosley
Sep 23, 2020 Motorcycle & Bicycle Accidents, Personal Injury
  1. 1. The Reality of Motorcycle Bias
  2. 2. The Science Behind “Looked but Failed to See” Crashes
  3. 3. Distracted Driving Contributes to Many Car-Motorcycle Crashes
  4. 4. How Bikers Can Protect Themselves on Texas’ Roads
  5. 5. Crosley Law: Fighting for San Antonio’s Motorcycle Accident Victims

Why Drivers Lack Motorcycle Awareness

At-fault drivers love to blame motorcycle riders for car-bike accidents. “I was about to turn left,” they argue, “and that motorcycle came out of nowhere!”

Bias against motorcyclists is real, and motorists sometimes try to shift blame to innocent riders when they were at fault for a crash. This tactic can complicate your personal injury claims, especially if you don’t have an experienced attorney on your side.

At Crosley Law, we have a long history of helping motorcyclists get the compensation they deserve after a wreck. In this blog, we discuss motorcycle awareness, the science behind distracted driving, and what you can do to fight back.

The Reality of Motorcycle Bias

During a crash, motorcyclists lack the onboard safety systems of a passenger car. You can’t rely on seat belts and airbags to keep you safe. In fact, motorcyclists are six times more likely to die in a wreck than someone in a car or truck. As a biker, you probably understand these risks, but that doesn’t mean you’re immediately to blame for a collision.

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Motorcycle riders get a bad rap. If you ask non-bikers to describe motorcyclists, you’ll often hear words like “reckless” and “thrill-seeking.” However, these stereotypes are unfair and unsupported by reality. Many motorcycle crashes occur at intersections, and car drivers often cause these wrecks. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 87% of failure-to-yield accidents at intersections are caused by the car, not the motorcycle.

However, motorcyclists’ unfounded reputation as rulebreakers and speed demons can harm their personal injury claims. If the police report places blame on an innocent victim, the insurance company will try to reduce their compensation under Texas’ comparative fault rules. Sometimes, they’ll reject the biker’s claim completely.

The Science Behind “Looked but Failed to See” Crashes

If many car-motorcycle crashes are due to the vehicle driver’s unsafe lane change, failure to yield, or speed, why do so many of these drivers claim they didn’t see the bike until it was too late? Scientists and highway safety experts refer to these crashes as “looked but failed to see” collisions. While some of these claims are simply victim-blaming, it’s sometimes due to psychological phenomena like change blindness and attentional bias.

What Is Change Blindness?

There’s a famous video where a group of people pass basketballs back and forth. Viewers are asked to count the number of times that one team passes the ball. In the middle of the game, a person in a gorilla suit wanders across the screen. About half of viewers don’t even notice the gorilla. This is an example of change blindness or selective attention.

Researchers describe change blindness as a failure to notice large changes in our virtual environment, and it’s remarkably common. The human brain is incredibly powerful, but it has limited resources. When you try to “multitask,” you’re really switching your focus quickly from one task to another; our brains cannot process all that information simultaneously. Drivers, especially distracted ones, often “miss” obvious hazards, motorcyclists, and other vulnerable road users because their minds are focused elsewhere.

What Is Attentional Bias?

Have you ever experienced “tunnel vision,” where you become hyper-focused on one thing and ignore everything else? This is a dramatic example of attentional bias. In addition to change blindness, our brains tend to focus on what we’re most interested in or consider the most dangerous.

Many drivers are on the lookout for cars, trucks, and other “typical” risk factors. However, they’re less conscious of road users who have a smaller profile and are somewhat less common, including motorcyclists, bicycle riders, and pedestrians. Notably, dual drivers, like people who ride motorcycles and drive a car, are less likely to cause a “looked but failed to see” crash — they’re expecting to see motorcycles on the road, so they’re less likely to miss them.

Distracted Driving Contributes to Many Car-Motorcycle Crashes

The top causes of motorcycle crashes often include speeding, failure to yield, unsafe lane changes, and drunk driving. However, we cannot ignore the impact of distracted driving. In 2019, more than 17% of all Texas crashes involved a distracted driver, and many experts believe distracted driving is underreported.

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Inattention, whether due to texting or “multitasking,” is often at play in a car-motorcycle wreck. However, most drivers will deny all wrongdoing, even if the facts are against them. To fight back, you’ll need access to their phone records and electronic data before the evidence is destroyed or lost. 

At Crosley Law, we represented two motorcyclists who suffered catastrophic injuries after a young driver violently rear-ended their bikes. Our motorcycle injury attorneys believed the at-fault driver had been texting and failed to identify a stoppage in traffic. Because we acted quickly and decisively to preserve the negligent driver’s phone records, our team was able to resolve the cases and provide peace of mind to our clients and their families.

How Bikers Can Protect Themselves on Texas’ Roads

At Crosley Law, we take motorcycle safety seriously. Every time you get on your bike, you should take every precaution: follow the rules of the road, avoid lingering in blind spots, and use your turn signals. However, even the most responsible motorcycle rider can’t prevent every crash. When a serious injury happens because of someone else’s negligence, you’ll need to file an injury claim and demand fair compensation for your injuries.

1. Take to Your Loved Ones About Motorcycle Awareness

As a responsible motorcyclist, you can help fight bias against motorcyclists and build up awareness by educating your friends and family about motorcycle awareness. If drivers become more aware of motorcyclists and know how to share the road, we can decrease the number of motorcycle injuries and fatalities. If you need help starting these conversations, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website has some excellent resources.

2. Use a Motorcycle Helmet and Protective Gear

A motorcycle helmet, vest, and other protections provide a level of protection when you’re on the road. These items can reduce head and back trauma, road rash, and other common injuries. However, helmets and other gear don’t provide complete protection, especially when a distracted driver causes a violent wreck.

3. Document the Circumstances Surrounding Your Crash

During your personal injury claim, you’ll need evidence that substantiates your claims. While your lawyer will need to collect some of these records, like the negligent driver’s electronic data, you can also play a role. If possible, try to take the following steps:

  • Photograph the crash scene, including all vehicles, the skid marks, and the final position of your motorcycle
  • Write down the names and contact information of any witnesses who stop at the crash scene
  • Cooperate fully with the police investigation and notify the officers if you’re concerned that the other driver was distracted or intoxicated at the time of the crash
  • If you’re experiencing any pain or discomfort, seek immediate medical care
  • Contact an experienced motorcycle injury lawyer as soon as possible.

Crosley Law: Fighting for San Antonio’s Motorcycle Accident Victims

We Can Help

Request Your Free Consultation

At Crosley Law, we’re deeply committed to helping injured victims in San Antonio and Texas. We proudly represent our clients during some of their most difficult moments, and we have a remarkable track record of success.

If you or someone you love suffered injuries due to someone else’s negligence, call Crosley Law today at 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000 or fill out our brief contact form. We’ll set up your free consultation so you can get free expert legal advice about your situation at no cost to you.


Beanland, R., Lenné, M., & Underwood, G. (2015, January). Can drivers’ expectations and behaviour around motorcycles be influenced by exposure? Increasing Motorcycle Conspicuity: Design and Assessment of Interventions to Enhance Rider Safety. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281927943_Can_drivers’_expectations_and_behaviour_around_motorcycles_be_influenced_by_exposure

Talk, text, crash. (n.d.) Texas Department of Transportation. Retrieved from https://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/media-center/psas/distracted-driving/distracted.html

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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