Why does it seem like some drivers can’t share the road with a motorcycle very well?

If the driver of a passenger car or truck almost hits you, the odds are high that he or she probably didn’t see you in the first place — but it wasn’t because the driver wasn’t looking. He or she really did not see you.

According to scientific studies on the way that the brain processes information that the eyes see, something called saccadic masking can interfere with a person’s ability to process what is on the road around them — especially when drivers use a quick glance to check for other vehicles. In fact, the quicker that a driver glances out his or her window, the more likely that a saccadic lapse will occur, essentially hiding other vehicles (especially small ones, like a motorcycle or bicycle) from the driver’s brain.

Can this issue be overcome? Yes, but drivers have to essentially retrain the way that they’re used to glancing around at traffic. A quick turn of the head is possible, but the only way to defeat saccadic masking is to pause the eyes on three unique points during each glance. That gives the brain time to catch up to what the eyes are seeing — essentially preventing it from “filling in the blanks” with mental snapshots that are inaccurate.

Saccadic masking explains a phenomenon that many hapless drivers — and injured motorcyclists — have noticed over the years. A driver will seem to look right through a motorcyclist as if he or she weren’t even there. Distracted driving often catches the blame for those cases, when the reality may be more complicated.

Is a driver still responsible for a motorcycle accident caused when his or her brain simply doesn’t process the information his or her eyes see in time? Absolutely. No matter what, drivers are responsible for making sure that they have a clear road ahead before they drive.