Motorcycle Accidents, Attention, and Driving
Automatization, the development of automatic processes, is an interesting phenomena studied in cognitive psychology. Basically, it refers to processes that are so well practiced that they seem to occur without conscious awareness.
This can be thought of in terms of riding a bicycle. Initially, much attention and conscious awareness is devoted to staying balanced. After much practice, you no longer have to devote those attentional resources to being balanced, instead, you are free to pay attention to other things.
Inattention and Accidents
In many ways, automatization occurs with driving. Many of the processes we engage in while driving become so automatic that we rarely have to think of them.
This can be a good thing at times like when we no longer have to think about using our blinker, we just do. This can also be a bad thing at times. Whenever we are able to do so much without paying attention, we become inattentive to many factors in the road.
It is this inattentiveness that results in many motorcycle accidents. USA Today has recently featured an article about a motorcycle accident where the passenger, a former Oklahoma softball player, died as a result of not wearing a helmet.
Recent Oklahoma Motorcycle Accident
The emphasis on this article seemed to be placed on the fact that Mariee Mena died as a result of not wearing a helmet. The emphasis seems to be misplaced a little.
If we look at the causal chain here, a sedan did not notice the motorcycle and pulled out in front of it. This inattention on the part of the sedan was the primary cause of the accident, the absence of the helmet was not cause of the accident itself.
We are not advocating that you shouldn’t wear helmets. Helmets should be worn by motorcycle drivers. We make the point because it is easy to blame not wearing helmets as the problem because then only those cyclists who don’t wear helmets are responsible here, the rest of us can go on without any concern.
When we see that the problem instead is inattentiveness on the road, well, I think there are a few more people who need to take on responsibility as a result of these tragic accidents. This is harder to emphasize because many of us don’t like to be told that we are doing anything wrong. Instead of passing the buck, let us practice safer driving and especially practice paying more attention on the road.