Drivers Should Talk to Themselves to Avoid Car Crashes, Scientific Study Finds

There’s an old joke that by talking to yourself, you get reasonable answers. Well, research from psychology professors at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom shows that a little chatter to yourself behind the wheel could help you avoid a collision, too.

The study published in September in the journal PLOS ONE focused on crashes between motorcycles and other vehicles — specifically when a driver pulls into oncoming traffic. Researchers said driving safety tips for these “Look But Fail to See” crashes previously have focused on improving how drivers scan the roadway and increasing motorcycle visibility.

However, drivers’ inattention may not be the only culprit, the study found. Instead, short-term memory glitches also appear to be part of the problem.

What Did the Study Show?

The study conducted three experiments using an advanced driving simulator — a BMW Mini within a projection dome that offers a 360-degree simulated view. The researchers found that drivers in the simulation failed to report an approaching motorcycle between 13 percent and 18 percent of the time. These failures occurred even after the driver fixated on the oncoming motorcycle, the study said.

The amount of time that elapsed between the drivers looking at the motorcycle and pulling out into the simulated intersection suggests that drivers weren’t looking in the wrong place or not paying attention. Rather, “the car driver is actually seeing the bike but forgetting it by the time they pull out,” Associate Professor Peter Chapman, who led the study, told CBC/Radio-Canada.

Other things drivers look at can overwrite their memory of seeing the motorcycle, even seconds later, Chapman continued: “We have this picture of the world like we’re watching a movie in front of us, and we think we’re paying attention to all of it, but we’re not. We’re just paying attention to one thing at a time unless we actively remember it.”

‘See Bike, Say Bike’

The study proposed that drivers talk to themselves about what they see — a strategy called “Perceive Retain Choose” — in such situations to correct these “Saw But Forgot” errors. For instance, one driver safety technique the researchers mentioned in the British newspaper The Telegraph proposes drivers say the word “bike” aloud when they see an approaching motorcycle (called a “motorbike” in England).

Called “See Bike, Say Bike,” this strategy helps the “relevant visual information” stick close to mind because of the verbal cue, Chapman told The Telegraph.

“Clearly, any research that improves our understanding of these crashes and the kind of countermeasures that can be used to prevent them has the potential to be a major contribution to world health,” he noted.

Why not test drive that idea before you pull into oncoming traffic? Say “car,” “truck,” “bike” —or whatever you see — before giving yourself the all-clear to proceed.

Need Legal Advice? Contact a Car Accident Attorney Now

If you or a loved one has been involved in a vehicle crash in the Oklahoma City area, regardless of the circumstances, the dedicated attorneys at the Cain Law Office are here to assist you. Please contact us for a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable personal injury attorneys.