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Unseen Perils: Perceptual Blindness & Portland Pedestrian Crash Risks

In Portland, Hillsboro and Gresham, drivers frequently make dangerous decisions that put pedestrians at risk of becoming involved in a motor vehicle accident. Drivers who use their cell phones and are distracted may not notice pedestrians on the road. People who drink, speed or fall asleep behind the wheel could lose control of their vehicles and strike a pedestrian. 

Anyone can become a victim of a pedestrian accident caused by a dangerous driver. However, a personal injury lawyer knows that young children and the elderly are generally the ones at the greatest risk of being hurt or killed while they are walking. Recently, the Wall Street Journal provided information one potential factor that could help to explain why so many kids die in pedestrian car accidents.

Why Are Children at Greater Risk of Pedestrian Crashes

Children may be at greater risk of getting hurt or killed in a pedestrian accident because their brains have not yet developed as well as adults and they suffer from a type of perceptual blindness as a result.

Kids under the age of 10 are not as capable as adults are of noticing something unexpected or out-of-place if they are focused on something else. As a result, if children are walking with friends or playing outside their homes and are engaged in an activity, they may not be as quick to notice that a car has lost control or is coming down the street and into their path. If they don’t notice and can’t get out of the way of the vehicle, they will be hit by the car.

Children 10 and under were most likely to experience perceptual blindness. By the time a child is 11, he or she is just as capable as an adult of recognizing and responding to unexpected stimuli.

For younger children, however, the impact of perceptual blindness can be dramatic. Just recently, German researchers conducted a study with a group of 480 school-age boys and girls who were between the ages of eight and 15. These children were asked to watch a video of people playing basketball and to count the number of times that the players wearing white jerseys passed the ball. The kids watched several videos, each of which were around 30 seconds long.

In the third video, a man in a gorilla suit was on the screen for nine seconds. He entered the court, walked all the way across it and then walked off. After this video, the children were asked if they saw anything unusual. Only 32 percent of 10-year-olds, 31 percent of nine-year-olds, and 15 percent of eight-year-olds said that they had seen the gorilla.

If kids can miss a gorilla that is on the screen for a third of a video they watch, then it is no surprise that they may not see and respond to a car that is unexpectedly coming down the road at them. This could help to explain why around 25 percent of all car accident deaths involving younger children happen when the kids are walking.

Portland accident victims should contact Zbinden & Curtis, Attorneys at Law, by calling 1-503-287-5000 or visiting

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