A study which used eye tracking technology to monitor driver behaviour found that the drivers involved in the experiment failed to notice 22% of cyclists on the road, despite them being in clear view.
Direct Line Car Insurance commissioned the eye tracking experiment to establish where motorists’ eyes are focussed. Participants wore special glasses that pinpoint the exact focus of the eye by tracking microscopic movements in the cornea. The experiment suggests that much of the time drivers’ vision is focused on “clouds, buildings and passers-by”.
The driver participants also failed to see 15% of motorcyclists, but in contrast spotted all but 4% of pedestrians who stepped into the road without using a crossing.
The study suggests that motorists who use sat nav devices are less likely to spot a cyclist than those who do not – 24% of cyclists were ‘invisible’ to drivers using a sat nav, compared to 19% for those not doing so.
Female drivers spotted fewer cyclists than their male counterparts, with 26% of cyclists unseen by women and 17% unseen by men. The same applies to younger drivers, with 31% of cyclists not seen by motorists aged 20-29 years, compared to 21% for those aged 50-59 years.
Vicky Bristow, spokesperson for Direct Line, said: "For the first time we know exactly where people focus their eyes when driving and the results are frightening. UK roads are busy and congested and as a result millions of cyclists are going unseen.
“Blaming motorists seems like an easy option, but this issue can only be really addressed if both motorists and cyclists accept responsibility.
"Encouraging all road users to be extra vigilant will certainly improve road safety but tackling an issue of this scale really requires top-down change.
“Successive governments have encouraged local authorities to adopt policies to make cycling safer, but our research highlights that this issue is still widespread."
*NOTE FOR READERS: the press release issued by Direct Line appears to have been removed from their website but has been supplied to us – click here to download the release.