Monday, June 17, 2013


In aviation there is a phenomenon known as get-there-itis.  It has apparently been identified by NASA, albeit under a different more scientific sounding name.

It’s a fancy name for “get-there-itis” — plan continuation bias, which is an   unconscious cognitive bias to continue the original plan in spite of changing conditions — and it can be deadly for general aviation pilots.
Plan continuation bias was identified in a NASA Ames human factors study from 2004 which analyzed 19 airline accidents from 1991 to 2000 that were attributed to crew error. Out of those, almost half involved plan continuation bias.
The problem is in how it can manifest itself. The study offered that it becomes stronger as you near completion of the activity (e.g., approach your destination). It essentially impedes pilots from recognizing that they need to change their course of action and, because it’s unconscious, it often goes undetected.

I can only assume that there is some amount of plan continuation bias or get-there-itis or must-pass-now-itis taking place on roads all across the USA.   This seems to be happening to me more lately and it should outrage not just cyclists but motorists, as this driver put two other drivers in danger as well as the 3 cyclists on this section of road.  The shoulder of the road narrowed just at the point where all the vehicles met.  This meant that the driver not only passed into the lane of two oncoming cars but an oncoming bike on a  narrow road.  If the other driver also had a case of must-pass-now-itis, there likely would have been major carnage on the road. 

I only wish I could have gotten the full license plate so I could have informed the driver just how outrageous her conduct was.  Her license started with 635 and might end with RM? or BM or something like that.  If anyone knows who drives this Chevy, please talk some sense to her. 

One way the pilots can avoid plan continuation bias is to have a alternative options already thought out ahead of time how to deal with certain trouble.  Maybe if someone told her she could wait 10 seconds and not endanger anyone, and she knew about this option ahead of time, she might have done the right thing.

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