Cyclists: 5 Tips to Stay Safe in a World of Distracted Drivers

Motor vehicle drivers have always faced distractions. However, the relatively recent surge in the use of personal technology devices, most especially smartphones, has made sharing the road much more dangerous. We all now have a desire to keep up with the world around us in real-time through messaging, news updates, and social media. This need for constant connection is causing noticeable new dangers.

In the earlier days of mobile communication, talking on the phone while driving proved to significantly increase the risk for motor vehicle accidents. Add to that texting, googling, taking photographs, filming stories, and watching videos, and distracted drivers become a huge risk to other drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. Studies have shown that some drivers will take their eyes off the road to look at their personal devices for 5-10 seconds at a time.

Distracted Drivers

(Photagona / unsplash)

So in this new world with so many distractions, how do cyclists stay safe? It is more important than ever for riders to stay alert, keep safety equipment updated and maintained, obey traffic laws, and communicate with all other people on the road.

1. Safety Equipment

Always make sure that while riding, you are wearing clothing and equipment to make you more visible to others. Brightly colored bike helmets, bright clothing, reflective gear, white front lights, red rear lights, and reflectors are all critical for cyclists.

Late detection of bicycles by drivers is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents. Being sure to attach a flashing light to your bicycle, whether you are riding during the day or at night, can help keep drivers alert to your presence.

Making sure that your helmet is the right size and properly fitted can significantly reduce the risk of serious brain injury if an accident were to occur. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to correctly fit your helmet. You may also want to consider investing in a safety camera that will attach to your helmet and provide you with a record of your rides in case of an incident.

2. Obey Traffic Laws

Cyclists should always follow the same traffic laws and regulations as the other vehicles on the road. It is important for riders to go in the same direction as motor vehicle traffic and obey all street signs and road markings.

It may seem counterintuitive to ride with the flow of traffic. Runners are told to run facing traffic for safety, so it would follow that cyclists should do that same. However, this can significantly increase the chance of head-on collision, and in many places cycling against traffic is illegal.

Unfortunately for both cyclists and motorcyclists, even when riders obey every traffic law, they are still vulnerable to catastrophic impact. Cars, trucks, and other motor vehicles can easily overpower bikes and motorcycles, and a distracted driver can spell disaster even for the most conscientious of riders.

3. Communicate with Drivers

Good communication with all other motorists on the road will help make your ride safer. Remember to clearly signal before turning, stopping, or slowing down. Be sure to make eye contact with drivers when arriving at an intersection to ensure that you have been seen before proceeding. You should always keep safety in mind when passing along any motorway and ride single file when cycling with a group.

4. Ride when Roads are Least Busy

Most car and bike collisions happen at night. If possible, try to avoid cycling at night. For day rides, try to time your rides within the hours when traffic is the least busy. Riding on paths or smaller roadways away from rush hour traffic is also a good principle to follow.

Before any ride, you should plan out your route. Choose roads and routes with less traffic and slower speed limits. The safest option is to stay away from traffic all together, sticking to bike lanes or paths.

5. Don’t be a Distracted Cyclist

While distracted motor vehicle driving is a leading cause of fatal accidents in the United States, and a huge problem for active cyclists, it is also dangerous to be a distracted rider. Cyclists are already much more vulnerable to injury, so riding while distracted adds extra risk.

Be sure to stash away all personal electronics in a backpack or bag attached to your bicycle before you ride. Cyclists can be distracted by the urge to text and use mobile phones during the journey, just as drivers are. Water bottles should be easily accessible and able to be used with one hand. Keep your eyes on the road at all times, and stay tuned to your surroundings. Listening to music, especially with headphones on, can prevent you from hearing potential risks from other vehicles or people.

Distracted driving is a much bigger problem than it has ever been before. Roads are designed for motorized vehicles, making cyclists very vulnerable. Therefore, cyclists need to be cautious and well-prepared to be able to claim their space and prevent injury.

Cyclists do, however, have the same rights as motorists if an injury or collision does occur. Utah allows victims of cycling accidents to bring claims against other motorists for any injuries received. To find bike accident injury attorneys in Utah to help build your case and get you compensation for your injuries, contact the LifeLaw team.