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Why people in cars often put cyclists at risk on the road

On Behalf of | Oct 26, 2022 | Bicycle Accidents |

Cyclists and drivers typically have to share the road. Many of the same rules apply to people on bikes as to those driving motor vehicles as both are vehicles under the law. For example, it is illegal to bike on public roads while under the influence of alcohol just like it is illegal to drive after drinking too much.

As someone who frequently rides bikes, you are likely deeply familiar with the rules that apply to you on the road. You recognize that you either need to install illuminated turn signals or use your arms to indicate when you will stop or turn in traffic. You know you need proper safety gear for your own protection even when not required by the law, and you also know that you should follow the flow of traffic and abide by all traffic signs and signals.

Unfortunately, while you may do everything right, a driver could easily make a mistake that affects you for many years to come.

Drivers often don’t watch for bicycles

Although it is possible for people to stay out on the roads on bikes all year round in Florida, drivers don’t watch for cyclists the way that they should. They will focus primarily on other motor vehicles instead, making it very easy for them to fail to spot a cyclist who is plainly visible near them on the road.

There is so much visual information for a driver to process that their brain has to sort that information on a subconscious level. Typically, people focus on what would affect their safety, like bigger vehicles. They could look right at a bicycle and fail to mentally recognize it as a vehicle in traffic. This psychological phenomenon, known as inattentional blindness, is responsible for many cycling crashes.

How can you overcome inattentional blindness?

As a cyclist, you likely already take the two most important steps to make yourself visible to others on the road. You follow traffic laws so that you are where you should be if drivers know to look for you, and you make yourself visible by wearing bright colors, reflective clothing or illuminated gear.

Beyond that, you may want to embrace defensive cycling, which involves treating every driver near you as a potential source of a crash. You can never assume that someone will see you in traffic and make the right choices. You have a lot more to lose if they didn’t notice you than they do.

Understanding one of the more common causes of bicycling crashes can help avid cyclists improve their street safety.