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What is inattentional blindness? Why is it dangerous?

On Behalf of | Jul 4, 2024 | Car Accident

Have you ever seen a driver with a “thousand-yard stare” on their face as they watch a traffic light and wait for it to turn green? It can actually be a sign that they’re completely oblivious to you as you try to walk through the intersection.

Inattentional blindness is a psychological phenomenon where someone gets focused on another task and fails to notice something that’s literally right in front of them. 

It seems to be related to the way that human memory and minds work

Essentially, the human brain has a limited capacity for processing information, so it automatically “sorts” through the stimuli around it and filters out anything it considers unimportant. 

The more deeply someone is engaged in a specific task, the more their cognitive resources are tapped – and the more they’re likely to overlook anything unexpected in their field of vision. For drivers who are focused on monitoring a traffic light, adjusting their radio, looking at their GPS or navigating the flow of traffic, this can mean missing a pedestrian who is still trying to cross an intersection or a motorcyclist who is trying to make a turn. 

This is why pedestrians and motorcyclists are often encouraged to try to make eye contact with motorists when they are at intersections. The eye contact, however minimal, can snap a driver out of their distracted haze.

Distracted driving, in one form or another, is estimated to cause injuries in 700 car accidents a day – so it’s worth understanding how inattentional blindness can affect those around you. If you are injured by a distracted driver, however, you may want to consider legal guidance as you figure out how to get fair compensation for your losses.