It’s a stereotype, but it’s a stereotype based on reality: a motorcyclist riding the speed limit and minding their own business is cut off by a car driver, causing a crash. The cager’s excuse? “Sorry Mate, I Didn’t See You!”

That’s where the SMIDSY acronym comes from, but a University of Nottingham study says the problem may not be that drivers don’t see motorcyclists, it’s that they see them but don’t remember them.

The university study used a driving simulator to determine test subjects’ behavior at intersections. Through a series of tests with a range of subjects, the scientists found, in some cases, that drivers did see oncoming vehicles, but when asked about them, could not remember them. This was true of transport vehicles, cars and motorcycles, but the short-term memory problem was far more evident with motorcycles than with larger vehicles.

The researchers suggested that “it’s what happens in the moments between seeing an approaching vehicle and pulling out that can lead to a complete absence of memory – particularly for approaching motorcycles.” In other words, if something else distracts you from paying attention to driving, you can forget about what you just saw, leading you to cause a traffic accident.

So what’s the solution? To improve short-term memory in order to drive more safely, researchers say drivers need to work on something called the “Perceive Retain Choose” model. Drivers should choose to make a conscious observation of the traffic situation, perhaps even through audio cues (“if they see a motorcycle approaching, they should say so out loud – ‘See Bike, Say Bike.”). These actions will help reinforce short-term memory, and prevent crashes.

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