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Focusing can create mental ‘change blindness’

Car accidents happen for all manner of reasons, but one of the most confusing is when someone does not see something that they clearly should see. For instance, maybe they merge into a lane already occupied by another car. How could this happen? A car is a 4,000-pound vehicle that is more than a dozen feet long. Why didn’t they see it?

There are a lot of potential reasons why. Maybe they were intoxicated. Maybe they were distracted. Maybe they just forgot to check the mirrors.

One complex issue, though, is known as change blindness. It’s a mental issue that happens when people get too focused on one specific thing in their field of vision. Even when other things that they can see change, the brain is so focused that they literally do not notice significant changes around that focus area.

For example, maybe they got really focused on a driver who was tailgating them. They kept looking at the mirror and trying to see if they were going to get rear-ended. In fact, they were so focused that they didn’t see the cars in the other lanes, on either side of them. They switched lanes to get away from the tailgater and ran right into the other vehicle.

Driving is complicated. It takes a person’s full focus and attention to do it well. As this shows, though, even that very focus can be an issue when it goes too far.

Since accidents have so many causes and are so unpredictable, it is important for all people to know what legal options they have in case they get involved in a crash.


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