How To Avoid Motion-Induced Blindness

Jim Luff
Posted on April 29, 2014

In a vehicle collision, where a speeding car hits a slower moving vehicle coming from the side, the speeding car driver often swears that he just didn't see the vehicle coming from the left or right.  Well, the driver isn't lying. He really didn't see the vehicle coming from the side, in spite of broad daylight.


This phenomenon on the car driver's part is known as "Motion Induced Blindness," and it is definitely frightening.

Once airborne, pilots are taught to alternate their gazes between scanning the horizon and scanning their instrument panels, and never to fix their gazes for more than a couple of seconds on any single object. They are taught to continually keep their heads on a swivel and their eyes always moving. Because, if you fix your gaze on one object long enough while you yourself are in motion, your peripheral vision goes blind.

Until about three decades ago, this "heads on swivel and eyes moving" technique was the only way to spot other aircraft in the skies around. Today, planes have onboard radars, but the old technique still holds good.

Here is a small demonstration of motion induced blindness:
 
Click on this link: http://www.msf-usa.org/

You will see a revolving array of blue crosses on a black background.  There is a flashing green dot in the center and three fixed yellow dots around it. If you fix your gaze on the green dot for more than a few seconds, the yellow dots will disappear at random, either singly, or in pairs, or all three together. In reality, the yellow dots are always there.

Just watch the yellow dots for some time to ensure that they don't go anywhere!  The moral of the story: Keep your eyes moving from side view mirror to the center mirror, the right mirror and the road ahead of you.

Related Topics: chauffeur behavior, chauffeur training, defensive driving, driver safety, driver training, driving, Jim Luff, traffic assessment

Jim Luff Contributing Editor
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