April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation would like to remind drivers that motorcyclists are out there.
“Fender-benders are rare in collisions involving motorcycles,” said MSF President Tim Buche. “When two cars collide, the result is often minor damage that’s repaired a few weeks later once insurance kicks in. However, when a car hits a motorcyclist, there is often direct vehicle-to-human contact. I can’t imagine the lasting guilt of doing harm to a person who has a life, and a family who loves them, especially if that harm is the result of a momentary lapse of attention. This can all be avoided by making a conscious effort to drive fully engaged and undistracted.”
The MSF has created a collection of insightful tips for car and truck drivers. In this publication (Quick Tips: Ten Things All Car & Truck Drivers Should Know About Motorcycles), the first tip has to do with drivers actually looking for and seeing motorcyclists:
Over half of all fatal motorcycle crashes involve another vehicle. Most of the time, the car or truck driver, not the motorcyclist, is at fault. There are a lot more cars and trucks than motorcycles on the road, and some drivers don’t “recognize” a motorcycle – they ignore it (usually unintentionally).
Driving Cell Free
According to the National Safety Council, “Hands-free is not risk-free.” A full 80 percent of American drivers believe that hands-free devices are safer to use than their hand-held counterparts. “But that’s just not true,” said MSF’s Vice President of Training Systems Dr. Ray Ochs. “Distraction happens in the mind, and the mind can become distracted by the conversation itself, whether that conversation is hands-free or while holding a phone. The goal should be to completely free up the mind to focus on the task at hand – driving and watching for others, and doing so safely.” To do just that, the NSC recommends driving “cell free.”
The National Safety Council has created a list of strategies to avoid cell phone distractions while driving. They include:
- Turn off your cell phone, or put it on silent, before driving.
- Toss your cell phone in the trunk or glove box to avoid temptation.
- Pre-set your navigation system and music playlists before driving.
- Schedule stops to check voicemails, emails and texts.
- Tell coworkers, family and friends not to call or text you when they know you are driving.
The Mind’s Eye
In the book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), author Tom Vanderbilt echoes Ochs view that driving undistracted is all about what takes place in our minds. “Keeping one’s eyes on the road is not necessarily the same thing as keeping one’s mind on the road.”
Unfortunately, drivers don’t have to be distracted very long to get into trouble. According to Vanderbilt, one study found that almost 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved drivers who were not paying attention to traffic for three seconds or less before the event. Distractions while driving can take many forms, such as eating, personal grooming, or even just mentally reliving a recent unpleasant conversation or event. “Beyond a certain threshold, the more that is asked of [human attention], the less well it performs,” says Vanderbilt.
One group of drivers – teens – is especially at risk. Teen drivers are more distracted than previously thought, according to a new study by the AAA Foundation of Traffic Safety. After analyzing approximately 1,700 samples of in-car video footage, researchers found that 58 percent of crashes among teen drivers were due to distracted driving. The study found that the main causes of distraction among teen drivers were interacting with other occupants, cellphone use, looking at something inside the car, singing or moving to music, grooming and reaching for objects.
“Improvement in any skill requires a constant intent to improve,” said Buche. “A great time to become intentionally focused on driving undistracted is while putting on the seatbelt. This is a safety-related action that we can all use as a trigger to make a focused, intentional commitment to driving undistracted.”
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has created a website specifically for drivers of cars and trucks. ForCarDrivers.com is loaded with valuable resources to help drivers see motorcyclists. Complete with quick tips, safety videos, insightful facts and statistics, training modules, video kits and downloadable materials, ForCarDrivers.com is an important place to visit before taking to the road.
MSF’s website has provided several safety booklets, quick tips, videos and other downloadable materials for motorcyclists as well as car and truck drivers. Please visit msf-usa.org and click Library.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation promotes safety through rider training and education, operator licensing tests and public information programs. The MSF works with the federal government, state agencies, the military and others to offer training for all skill levels so riders can enjoy a lifetime of safe, responsible motorcycling. Standards established by the MSF have been recognized worldwide since 1973.
The MSF is a not-for-profit organization sponsored by BMW, BRP, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, Piaggio, Polaris Motorcycles, Suzuki, Triumph and Yamaha. For safety information or to enroll in the RiderCourse nearest you, visit msf-usa.org or call (800) 446-9227.