Yesterday as I made my way home from a spin I began to consciously watch what the motorists around me were doing whilst driving their vehicles. One after another the majority were nodding their heads up and down like those nodding dogs that used to adorn the rear shelf of many an Opel Kadett. They were glancing at the road, glancing down something in their hands and back up at the road again. What were they glancing down at? Well you wouldn’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out that it was their mobile phones.
Drivers are just a reflection of society as a whole nowadays which is why this is now such a huge problem out on the roads.
Everyone is now in a hurry. All trying to multitask as much as possible. There is no longer a clear line between work and home time and everyone sits watching tv with a phone, iPad or laptop near at hand. In the past listening to the radio was enough of a distraction to keep a drivers mind occupied whilst cruising along an open road. Nowadays the phone is picked up at every opportunity to check emails and texts, facebook and twitter and plenty of other non essential information.
1 in 4 of all road accidents in America are caused by drivers texting.
You are 6 times more likely to crash into someone on their phone than a drunk driver.
How can you solve what is now becoming an epidemic on our roads?
Asking people nicely won’t do it.
Maybe if there were 12 penalty points for a first offence. There is no logical excuse for looking down at facebook whilst driving. Taking a call might have some half valid reason behind it. Might, which is why 4 or 6 penalty points for a first offence would be acceptable.
Maybe a mobile data blocker would be good too. If mobile phone companies were compelled to install some add on to the phones gps that turned off all mobile data when the phone travels at more than 5kph it might be a start.
In the meantime what can we as cyclists do to try to protect ourselves out on the road ?
Make yourself visible. Wear some form of hi vizibility clothing at all times. Also use flashing lights just as much in the daytime as the night.
Make eye contact with drivers as much as possible approaching junctions and roundabouts. Take it that if you don’t make eye contact that the driver does not see you and adjust accordingly.
Expect every driver to be a Murphys law muppet. If they can do something stupid and dangerous chances are they will so prepare yourself accordingly.
Take the ‘chance it’ option off the table for the drivers behind you. Drivers should leave 1.5 meters of a gap when overtaking cyclists. Many traffic calming areas are designed to be just the width of a truck to pass through so a motorist would do well to have 15cm to spare when overtaking a cyclist in these areas but many still do. The best thing to do in this case is to ride 60 cm out from the kerb thus taking the ‘I’ll chance it and probably squeeze by’ option away from the driver. As soon as you clear the road furniture pull right in to the hard shoulder to let them pass now that it is safe to do so. Most drivers will be OK once you do that.
Stay Calm. If you have the choice between being right and being patient and kind, don’t try to be right just because you are in the right. Especially if the other person has two tonnes of metal surrounding them and all you have is 3mm of lycra. No matter who is right or wrong there will always only be one looser should there be any form of contact in that scenario.
Finally, choose quieter roads. There are thousands and thousands of almost deserted roads all throughout Ireland where you can easily go for over an hour without meeting a single car. Seek out those roads and enjoy the peace and tranquility. You will arrive home feeling refreshed rather than stressed out.