Distracted Driving, An Increasing Problem For Cyclists
In the United States, more than 1000 people are injured every single day in crashes involving distracted drivers. This means driving while using your cell phone, eating or drinking, fiddling with the GPS or stereo or any other activity that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving. But not all road users have side impact bars and airbags. Many of us love to gear up and head out for a bike ride, but collisions with vehicles are all too frequent and the phrase ‘I didn’t see you’ is one most regular cyclists have heard.
What is distracted driving?
There are three main types of distracted driving. Cognitive distraction is taking your mind off of driving and thinking about something else. Visual distraction is taking your eyes off the road while checking the kids in the back seat, or searching for a house number. Lastly, manual distraction is taking your hands off the wheel to make a phone call or open a soda. Any of these distractions can endanger lives, but texting is particularly dangerous as it combines all three.
How can you reduce the risk while cycling?
Cell phone usage is one of the biggest culprits in distracted driving incidents. Turning your phone off or switching it to airplane mode while on the road, for both drivers and cyclists, is a sensible choice. There are several apps available which block you or your kid’s phone whilst in a moving vehicle. But cyclists need to protect themselves as much as possible as well. More than half of the 818 cyclists killed in crashes in 2015 were not wearing a helmet. Wearing appropriate protective gear including helmets and high visibility clothing will make you more obvious when out cycling, especially in dim light or bad weather, and the benefits of a helmet are obvious. Cyclists need to be hyper vigilant when riding on roads, communicate with other road users and anticipate what drivers may do. Even if you have right of way, a distracted driver may not see you, so slow down especially in wet or slippery conditions.
Cycling is on the rise in the US, and the health and environmental benefits of using pedal power are plain to see. Sadly, distracted driving collisions with cyclists are also on the increase, but a keen awareness of the road conditions, combined with safety clothing and a helmet, will hopefully allow drivers and cyclists to travel more safely on the shared routes.
Story submitted as special contribution by Sally Writes