Distraction is one of the worst possible things to run into when on the road. Plenty of campaigns exist specifically to address the dangers of distracted driving.
But unfortunately, not all distractions can be controlled, and a person could end up engaging in distracted behaviors without even realizing it.
How change blindness works
Frontiers discusses the phenomenon of change blindness, which affects people daily. This is because change blindness is something of a side-effect of the way the brain processes the world.
In short, the brain makes predictive models of what to expect in every situation it has encountered before. This helps the brain decide what pieces of information are important. Every second, it takes in 2,000 pieces of information or more and narrows this down to around 20 which it then conveys to the conscious mind.
Unfortunately, things that fall outside of these predictive models often end up invisible to the brain, hence the term “change blindness”. In daily life, this helps the brain maintain its orderly perception of the world.
The dangers of distraction
But on the road, blindness to sudden or unexpected changes may actually cost a driver their life. For example, they could miss something seemingly obvious such as a traffic light that currently does not work or an animal darting into the road.
Change blindness can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of a driver’s skill level or how long they have been behind the wheel. Knowing that it may happen is one of the best potential defenses, as any amount of awareness is better than none.