A lot of drivers hit cyclists that they simply never see. In some cases, this can be traced to dangerous driving habits, like texting and driving. However, many cases involve drivers who look right at the bicycles, still do not see them, and cause the accidents.

How is this possible? Studies have found that drivers often see only the things that they expect. More often than not, they expect cars and trucks. When they do not see them, they overlook other details. The brain has an incredible amount of information to process and decode while driving, so it may not take it all in quickly enough.

“We tend to see what we’re looking for, and we often miss unexpected things, especially when they differ from the focus of our attention,” one expert said. He noted that bicycles are relatively rare, compared to other types of traffic. Drivers do not look for them. As a result, even if they are there, drivers often do not see them.

This is very dangerous for a cyclist. You can watch the driver’s eyes, but even that may not tell you if he or she spotted you on your bike. You need to practice defensive riding at all times, assuming that at least some drivers will have no idea you are there. Just following all of the bike laws is not enough.

Of course, even understanding this issue is not going to prevent all accidents between cars and bicycles. If you get seriously injured in one of these wrecks, make sure you know what legal options you have.