Optimism Bias & Why Drivers Judge Motorcycle Distance & Speed Poorly

motorcycle in traffic

One of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents are when cars turn left into the path of oncoming motorcycles. Motorists will misjudge the speed of oncoming traffic and make a left when they don’t have enough time or space. Meanwhile, motorcycle drivers can’t maneuver out of the way in time, and they end up suffering serious or fatal injuries.

Drivers in general are also more prone to distraction than motorcycle riders. Part of that is the mechanics of riding a motorcycle—most riders don’t try to text while steering one-handed—but part of it is a tendency for people to overestimate their own driven abilities. Psychologists call it the “mere-exposure” effect: when people do something often, they confuse frequent practice for skill. So a bad driver who drives a lot is more likely to think they’re a good driver.

Mere-exposure effect explains why a study of drivers found that most people are afraid of distracted drivers, but those same people admitted to texting while driving! People overestimate their own abilities when it comes to driving.

That overestimation, what some scientists are calling “optimism bias,” has a measurable effect on traffic accidents.

Research Shows Drivers Get Overconfident with Experience

Research from Accident Analysis Prevention shows that people with more driving experience tended to underestimate their odds of being in various types of accidents compared to their peers. It also had drivers rate their optimism that they’d avoid accidents of certain kinds.

Interestingly, a strong predictor of optimism bias was how much each driver thought they’d be able to control the outcome of an accident through their driving skill. The more experienced a driver was, the more they believed that driving skill was the decisive factor in an accident’s outcome. These people also had a high opinion of their own driving skill.

In truth, people’s decisions do determine whether accidents take place, but once an accident takes place, there’s very little drivers can do to prevent injury or control what happens to them. Good driving is preventative, but as our firm knows, people are severely injured in accidents due to no fault of their own all the time. Peace of mind isn’t found in our own driving skill, but in knowing that if we’re injured by someone’s negligence, we’ll have the means to recover our losses.

If you were injured in a car accident chiefly caused by someone else, then speak with our firm. We may be able to secure the financial recovery and peace of mind you need. Call (888) 498-3023 today.

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