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Is inattentional blindness the biggest threat to road safety in the UK?

The psychologists call it ‘Cognitive Capture’ and define it as a form of ‘Inattentional Blindness’. You might well be asking what this has to do with road safety solutions, but please read on – all will become clear.

Inattenional Blindness is a phenomenon that affects people when their mind is so focussed on a secondary task that they forget the primary task they were engaged in, and something that would otherwise be conspicuous simply gets missed.

man using phone while driving

The most famous demonstration of Inattentional Blindness involved asking viewers of a video of a basketball game to count how many times men in white shirts touch the ball – most people get so focussed on counting they don’t notice a figure in a gorilla suit walking across the screen.

It happens to us all from time to time – you’re so focussed on watching the cricket on your computer screen you forget you were supposed to be working on that urgent report for the boss!

When Inattentional Blindness happens on the road though, it can be fatal. And anything that affects road safety, or presents a potential issue for road safety immediately grabs our attention as a leading provider of road safety solutions in the UK.

You are so focussed on the sat-nav because you are lost and on an unfamiliar road that you ‘forget’ that you are driving and simply don’t see what is in the road ahead – until you slam into the car in front, or worse a pedestrian on a crossing.

You are talking on the mobile, quite legally because you are hands-free, but you’re so intent on the conversation that you just don’t see the stationary traffic ahead or realise that you have started to veer out of your traffic lane into oncoming vehicles.

It’s a serious road safety problem but there are solutions available.

For example, keeping road signs simple so that drivers can understand them at a glance and don’t need to become fixated on them, and fitting assistive-driving technologies to vehicles such as lane deviation signals, collision prevention systems, and vehicle radar are all ways in which road safety solutions can save lives.

Solar road studs also have the capacity to significantly reduce the risk of Inattentional Blindness when driving at night.

On a road with old-fashioned ‘cat’s eyes’ you can find yourself fixating on where the next bend is -on a road using solar studs you can relax, see clearly the route ahead, and keep your attention on being in control of the vehicle and aware of any other dangers around you. Road safety isn’t compromised – the Holy Grail, as we see it.

And ‘intelligent mobility‘ systems can help, too.

If traffic data is being used to give drivers clear information or active traffic management is being used to reduce congestion or to ensure that traffic is maintaining a constant speed, then drivers will be less focussed on the clock and the possibility of being late, and more able to concentrate on what’s actually happening around them.

The risk of someone in a gorilla suit walking across your line of sight when you are on a complicated and unfamiliar road while trying to work out what lane you should be in might be slim – but the risk of a child stepping into the road is a real one, and when it happens you don’t want to miss it. Inattentional Blindness can be a killer on the roads.

To find out more about Clearview Traffic and how our road safety solutions can assist you, please feel free to get in touch here.

Author: |Date Published: November 2015

Links: Route Safety

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