Are you concerned about distracted drivers?

I certainly am.

What is distracted driving anyway? Listening to the radio is a minor distraction, messing with your music or Bluetooth is a lot more serious. When cell phones became universal, distracted driving really got bad. Texting while driving increases the chance of an accident 23 times over regular driving.

Car makers keep putting more digital devices into cars and promote voice based messaging as a safer alternative to dialing by hand. A new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that using voice text messaging is more distracting than making calls with handheld phones.

We are not aware of any studies on internet browsing, using facebook or twitter etc. while driving. But it’s pretty easy to guess the results.

The Virginia State Police estimate that eight out of 10 crashes involve driver distraction within three seconds of the crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Council attributes well over 3,000 fatalities annually to distracted driving.

“Some 25% of car crashes are caused by cellphone use, according to a May 2013 report from the National Safety Council. Drivers using cellphones fail to see up to 50% of their environment, says David Teater, senior director at the NSC. And the risk of getting in crashed from texting is getting worse.” You want to be sure that you aren’t part of that, “50% of the environment!”

As a cyclist what can you do to defend yourself against distracted drivers?

  • Wear the brightest clothing you can find. That’s See me® wear™; the highest visibility cycling wear there is.
  • Stay completely alert to traffic from both directions and at intersections. Don’t cross in front of a car at a cross roads unless you establish eye contact with the driver. Always be aware of where you can ditch to avoid being hit.
  • Use a mirror; don’t rely on looking over your shoulder. If a car comes up behind you too close ride off the road. Ditching is much better than getting hit. Watch for erratic driving both front and back and ditch if necessary.
  • It’s not a bad idea to carry a boat horn on your bike. You can buy a small one for just $5 at a boat store. They are unbelievably loud and will stop most dogs in their tracks. They also are much more effective than bells or regular bike horns to alert a driver to your presence.