Why Car Drivers Fail to Spot Motorcycles

Riding a motorcycle presents a unique blend of freedom and risk – the thrill of the open road set against the inherent dangers of being so exposed. But some of these risks come not from the rider’s own actions, but from the drivers of larger, enclosed vehicles.

A common lament from motorcyclists is the often-repeated phrase from car drivers after a near miss or collision: “I didn’t see you.” While it may seem perplexing how most brightly-kitted riders on a roaring machine could go unnoticed, there are a number of reasons and excuses car drivers often give for not seeing motorcycles on the road. From blind spots to distractions, these factors serve as reminders of the additional caution and awareness that drivers need to exercise when sharing the road with motorcycles.

Here are 10 Reasons why:

  1. Size Differential: Motorcycles are much smaller than cars and trucks, making them harder to spot, especially at a distance or in peak traffic conditions.
  2. Blind Spots: Motorcycles can easily disappear into a driver’s blind spots. A quick glance in the mirror may not always be sufficient to identify a motorcyclist nearby.
  3. Visibility Issues: Poor lighting conditions, inclement weather, and glare from the sun or oncoming headlights can make it harder to see motorcycles on the road. Even the background behind the motorcycle can easily make it go, poof – gone!
  4. Speed Misjudgement: Drivers can easily misjudge the speed of a motorcycle due to its smaller size, and hence, not notice it until it’s too close. The same phenomena exist among the most experienced riders out there, we just know to wait instead.
  5. Distractions: Many drivers are engaged in other activities and occupants while driving, including texting, using a GPS, eating, or talking on the phone, resulting in them not noticing motorcycles.
  6. Familiarity Bias: Drivers are more accustomed to looking for other cars and larger vehicles, leading to a subconscious bias that can overlook smaller motorcycles. It starts on the back/passenger seat – prohibit kids/passengers from using smartphones while you drive, instead, teach them to count motorcycles.
  7. Lack of Signal or Indicators: Some of us don’t always use the indicators when changing lanes or turning, making it harder for other drivers to anticipate their movements. I’m not sure what’s worse, not indicating or not cancelling it after use.
  8. Lane Splitting: In places where lane splitting is allowed, drivers may not be expecting motorcycles to pass between lanes of slower or stopped traffic. Some drivers are aggravated by it, some give way; either way, it needs to be done with safety and consideration in mind.

Read more about Lane Splitting

  1. Obstructed Views: Other vehicles, objects, or even the car’s own A-pillars can block the view of a motorcyclist, making them hard to spot.
  2. Expectation: There are fewer motorcycles on the road compared to cars, so drivers may simply not expect to encounter them, leading to less vigilance in looking out for them.

It takes a certain mindset to LOOK for motorcycles to actually SEE one. It is a choice not to be ignorant, but a choice to THINK.

Of course, none of these reasons can be an excuse for not seeing motorcycles. It’s crucial for all drivers of OVs (Other Vehicles) to stay alert and cautious, and to actively look out for motorcycles, especially in conditions where they might be harder to see.

Safe driving involves constantly being aware of one’s surroundings, which includes all road users. Safe riding, on the other hand, takes a unique mix of vigilance and anticipation.

Every Motorcycle Carries Life – LOOK 2 SEE!