ARSRPE Conference Paper Database

Sorry, Mate, I Didn't See You: A Plausible Scientific Explanation

White, Michael

Hazard Perception & Inattention


The excuse ?Sorry, mate, I didn?t see you? is so familiar to motorcyclists and cyclists that its acronym ?SMIDSY? is entering common usage. A recently conducted Google search for ?SMIDSY? produced 39,200 hits, a number of which were Web addresses incorporating the acronym. As well as failing to notice cyclists and motorcyclists, drivers can fail to notice almost any other relevant component of the road scene, such as traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, cars and even parked semi-trailers. At the broadest level, there are two types of cause for a failure to notice something: ?internal? visual/psychological causes and ?external? environmental causes (such as poor road lighting). Both types of cause will normally be involved in any instance of a failure to notice something. This selective review of the literature will focus on one type of internal cause: the looked-but-failed-to-see error. It is difficult to believe that a responsible driver can look-but-fail-to-see a motorcyclist or cyclist before it is too late to avoid a collision. This paper proposes a plausible scientific explanation for that failure. In the first section, it is noted that crash investigators are beginning to accept the reality of the looked-but-failed-to-see error. In the second section, the findings of recent vision research on ?inattentional blindness? and ?change blindness? are summarised. In the third section, it is proposed that ?genuine? looked-but-failed-to-see errors could be instances of inattentional/change blindness.