RoadRUNNER Zen Motorcyclist

Rider to Driver II

Jan 27, 2013 View Comments by

Rider to DriverBack in June of 2012 I wrote Rider to Driver , which made the case that riders and drivers can share the road with each other if we act on a case-by-case basis and don’t label a group based on the irresponsible or reckless behavior of a small percentage of that group. This morning I had an experience that both annoyed me and amused me to the point where I thought it worth mentioning.

I left home on a very cold morning for a ride. Not a mile from home, near a school and in a speed restricted area, a driver in a pickup who clearly should have seen me coming waited until I was pretty close and pulled out in front of me. “OK nothing new here,” I thought. I noticed a big, red, “Stop Texting” sticker on the tailgate. As it turned out we were headed in the same direction for the next few miles and I found myself behind him through town.

Now, I’m as opposed to texting while driving as anyone (and Pennsylvania has a law against it) and I’m always happy to see those texting warning stickers if for no other reason than as a reminder. However, I noticed two other things as we drove along that drove me nuts. One was that the driver never used a turn signal once in any of the intersections we passed through. The other was that he was holding a phone in front of his face carrying on a conversation for the entire drive.

So the driver is apparently against texting while driving, yet allowed himself to be so distracted by a phone call that he failed to see me or signal a turn through a school zone as well as through a few significant intersections in town. Texting is an obvious distraction, but I think we convince ourselves that other distractions while driving aren’t as dangerous.

I did a test on my phone (not while driving). It took me 20 seconds to grab the phone, start the message app and type “OK on my way.” A car travelling at 50 miles per hour for 20 seconds will travel over ¼ of a mile (1466 feet or nearly five football fields). Placing a phone call to a saved contact (without even dialing) took ten seconds, that’s still 1/8th of a mile (733 feet or over two football fields). When you consider that the centerline of a road is maybe two feet from the side of your car, and only a few feet from an approaching motorcycle or automobile you get a sense that any distraction for any reason is potentially deadly.

Phones aside, there are other distractions in a car including radios, computers, kids, GPS units, food, etc. I like the “Stop Texting” signs and believe wholeheartedly that anyone who does it and thinks they can do it safely while moving is kidding themselves and putting everyone around them at risk; but I also think it’s far too easy to single that out and fail to pay attention to the myriad of other ways we allow ourselves to be distracted.

10 seconds at 50mph = 1/8th of a mile. Distraction is distraction whatever the cause.

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About the author

I have been motorcycle commuting since 1998. I created Zen Motorcyclist (formerly Commuting Motorcyclist) in 2011 and work as a motojournalist, software developer, CAD designer and IT/CAD manager in the Surveying and Civil Engineering field.