‘What’s wrong with you — are you blind?’

Who hasn’t thought this at some point whilst cycling or driving?

Now, before we go on, who can say that, at some point in their own driving history, they have not been about to manoeuvre — pull out from a T-junction, etc — when a car or bike seemed to come out of nowhere? Hopefully, it was just a close shave, and no doubt quite frightening. You may have wondered how you failed to see it, and concluded that they must have been driving too fast or you would have seen them. Perhaps, on such an occasion, you were the recipient of that loud and urgent query, ‘Are you blind?’

Well, here’s the bad news — yes, you were. For small but significant periods of time you are completely incapable of seeing anything at all. Most of the time, as I shall explain, this is not a problem. But if it means that you fail to see a vehicle that is just about to occupy the same point in space and time as you are — then this is a big problem!

The good news is that understanding why we sometimes do not see things allows us to adopt some defensive strategies that tip the odds back in our favour. This article, then, is a fighter pilot’s survival guide to avoiding collisions.