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How can inattentional blindness affect drivers?

On Behalf of | Mar 12, 2022 | Motor Vehicle Accidents |

The human mind has a way of focusing on important tasks, and this conditional response is called inattentional blindness. It has a place and a use in certain aspects of daily life.

However, it does a driver no good when it kicks in behind the wheel. In fact, it can potentially put a driver’s life at risk.

Why does inattentional blindness happen?

The American Psychological Association looks into the phenomenon called inattentional blindness. This is a natural psychological occurrence that allows someone to focus on a very crucial task at the exclusion of any outside senses. For example, it may affect a surgeon during an important operation, allowing them to hyper-focus on the task at hand rather than getting distracted by other things happening in the room.

But drivers need to have the ability to multitask. Any form of distraction could potentially lead to a crash, and this includes distraction via hyper-focusing.

Why does it cause problems?

For example, a driver might end up suffering from hyper-focus when paying attention to their speed. While looking at their speedometer to obsessively check how fast they are driving, they might miss a stop sign coming up ahead, or a street light turning red. This can easily lead to a crash.

Due to its nature as a psychological reflexive phenomenon, there are not many known and reliable ways to simply stop this. However, once a driver becomes aware of the possibility of this happening, they can keep an eye out for any signs that their attention has grown anchored to one specific thing. They can then break out of the hyper-fixation and start driving safely again.