Topic 4 of 5: Cellular Phones and Bikes

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Cellular Phones

The increased use of cell phones while driving is becoming a hazard on our highways. Drivers who use their cell phones while operating a motor vehicle pose a serious threat to themselves and other drivers. Currently, there are 39 states that have a ban on texting while driving and 10 states that prohibit hand held types of cell phone use while driving. Using a cell phone, texting or looking at social media while driving involves all three types of distraction: visual, taking your eyes off the road, manual, taking your hands off the wheel, and cognitive by taking your mind and focus off your driving.

Cellular Phones
  • Use your cell phone only in emergencies. If possible, have a passenger make the call.
  • If you must make a call, pull safely off the road and stop before making the call.
  • Do not take notes or look up telephone numbers while driving.
  • Let your voice mail answer incoming calls.
  • If you must use your cell telephone, keep your conversations short. Get a model with voice-activated controls and hands-free operation.

Texting while driving is extremely dangerous.* Texting causes a driver to look away from the road for 4.6 seconds. At a speed of 55 mph, the vehicle travels the length of a football field in that time frame. A lot can happen on a football field. According to DISTRACTION.GOV, if you text while driving you are 8 to 23 times more likely to be involved in a car crash.

Louisiana law prohibits anyone 17 years of age and under from using any type of wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle and prohibits anyone of any age from texting while driving.

Peer Pressure

Teens are not the only ones who are faced with peer pressure. If asked, adults will tell of the pressure to have a bigger house, a better car or a job that pays more money. Parents are sometimes pressured by other parents to let their teen drive even when they know their teen is not ready. Every teen confronts peer pressure. Peers can pressure you into doing something you are not comfortable with. Taking a risk when driving can have a serious outcome. Most people would be shocked to discover that the biggest single cause of a teen death as a result of an auto accident is another teen, usually a friend. Many teens will admit they have been influenced to take a higher driving risk as a result of another teen’s suggestion. At the root of this problem is the teen’s need to impress his peers. The statistics are not very comforting.

  • 44% of teens said they drive more safely without friends in the car.
  • 67% of teens said they have felt unsafe when someone else was driving.
  • Only 45% said they would speak up if someone was driving in a way that scared them.
  • 37% said they would ride with one or more friends who speed in the coming year.

A young inexperienced driver may:

  • push the physical limits, especially with speed and curves
  • perform illegal maneuvers, such as running lights
  • steer carelessly, including swerving to the music or taking both hands off the wheel
  • treat the car as a toy and roads as a playground
  • race the other vehicles, use the car aggressively and shout abuse at other drivers
  • fill the car with other teens, often in a party mood
  • play around in the car, with low attention to their driving
  • turn around to talk to passengers
  • stare at their phone due to the rising addiction to social networking (text, email, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
  • drive when affected by alcohol or drugs, or without a safety belt

Engaging in any of these risky behaviors is more likely due to the young driver’s lack of experience behind the wheel. But peer pressure can have a positive influence. Peers can offer encouragement to each other. They can offer advice on a problem or tell you when you are about to make a mistake. Finding the courage to not “follow the crowd” can be difficult but it is not impossible. Trust your instincts. Choose your friends wisely. Having a friend who will “have your back” always helps when situations get tough. You have more power than you might think. Doing the right thing will not only improve your self-worth but may also be a positive influence on others and may save lives.

Teen Driver

Older Drivers

Older Drivers

In 2009, there were 33 million licensed drivers ages 65 and older in the U.S. On the positive side, driving is beneficial for older adults. On the negative, the risk for a fatal crash starts increasing at age 75. This is due largely to increased susceptibility to injury. Older adults suffer from some types of impairments due to age, loss of vision, a lessening of cognitive ability, and decreased motor function. But an older adult can protect himself by using safety belts and driving when the environmental conditions are the safest. Older drivers are also less likely to drink and drive.

Older adults can take steps to stay safe on the road.

  • Exercise regularly.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review medications - both prescribed and OTC - to reduce side effects that may possibly interfere with driving ability.
  • Have eyes checked at least once a year. Always wear your glasses or contacts if they are required.
  • As much as possible, drive during daylight hours and good weather.
  • Have your hearing check.
  • Look for the safest route with lighted streets, intersections with left turn signals, and easy parking.
  • Plan your route before your drive and know where you are going.
  • Leave a large following distance behind the car in front of you.
  • Avoid distractions in your car such as changing stations on the radio, talking on your cell phone, eating and drinking.
  • Know and understand your limitations.
  • Take a refresher course and update your driving skills.
  • If needed, consider an alternative to driving. Ride with a friend or use public transportation to get you where you need to go.

While these steps may be suggestions for older drivers, they are also good recommendations for drivers of any age group to follow.

Sharing the Road with Bicycles

Louisiana Revised Statute 32:199 states that “all children under the age of 12, when operating a bicycle or is a passenger on a bicycle, must wear an approved helmet with head straps when on a public highway, bicycle path or other public right-of-way.” Bicycling is a healthy form of recreation for many people, while for others it is a form of transportation. As a result of rising auto, gas, and insurance costs, many individuals are turning to bicycles as an alternative method of transportation. There are currently 90,000,000 cyclists in the US. Bicycles have the same rights to use public roads as automobiles and must follow the same traffic laws as other vehicles.

Many drivers find it hard to know how to react to bicyclists riding in the street. In any given year there are 800-1000 bicyclists that die on the roadways and some 500,000 will be treated for injuries. For the safety of both drivers and bicyclists, the following precautions should be taken while driving and bicycling.

Driving Safely Near Bicyclists

Driving Safely Near Bicyclists - Approaching and passing bicyclists:

  • You must yield to bicyclists in intersections as you would for pedestrians and other vehicles.
  • Increase following distances behind bicyclists because bicycle-stopping distances are shorter than automobiles.
  • Be aware that bicyclists not traveling in the extreme right of the lane may be trying to avoid gravel, debris, bad pavement, sewer grates and other obstacles.
  • Be cautious of bicyclists moving legally into the center of the lane because of road hazards or into the left lane because of a left turn.
  • Avoid passing between a bicyclist and an oncoming vehicle on a two-way road. Slow down and allow the on-coming vehicle to pass. Then move to the left to allow plenty of room to safely pass the bicyclist.
  • A three foot distance must be present between the passing automobile and slower traveling bicyclists.
  • Give bicyclists the entire lane when they are passing parked cars. They need the space to avoid opening doors.
  • Use caution when passing bicyclists because the air current created by a passing vehicle may cause bicyclists to have an accident.
  • If you are pulling a trailer, allow for extra passing room when passing bicyclists.
  • Extra caution should be used when motorist are near bicyclists in wet, windy, or icy weather.
  • Reduce speed when encountering bicyclists and never tailgate.
  • Do not blow your horn when near bicyclists.

Turning Near Bicyclists

  • Drivers who are turning left must wait until oncoming bicyclists pass. Accidents occur when turning drivers do not notice the bicyclists in the flow of traffic or misjudge their speed.
  • Do not swing in front of a bicyclist to make a right turn. Making a right turn after overtaking a bicyclist is also a cause of accidents. Drivers should slow down and stay behind the bicyclist, or look once, then again. Make sure you see the bicycle and know its speed before you turn.
  • Speeds of bicycles are hard to judge. They can vary from under 10 mph to over 35 mph. Good communication and eye contact between drivers and bicyclists are needed to prevent accidents.

Watch for Bicyclists and Use Caution in Hazardous Conditions

  • When opening your car door into traffic, look first for bicyclists. This collision is the driver’s fault.
  • Railroad crossings can cause bicyclists to slow down and possible zigzag in order to cross the tracks.
  • Metal or grated surfaces may cause a bicycle to be less stable than a car. Bicyclists should slow down and move to the center of the lane to allow room for handling the uneven surface. Drivers should be prepared for the reaction of a bicyclist who may be less experienced and may swerve to correct for the new surface.
  • Trucks creating windblasts can move a bicyclist out of his path of travel on long open highways and bridges.
  • Children on bicycles may not be aware of their surroundings. Drivers should be aware that the children may make sudden movements or change direction. Don’t expect children to know traffic laws.
  • Inclement weather conditions create high winds and slippery surfaces that can cause extreme problems for bicyclists. Because these conditions create stability problems for all vehicles, drivers should allow more following distance for bicyclists.

Bicycling Safety

  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Use hand signals and eye contact to communicate your actions with other drivers.
  • Obey instructions of official traffic control signals and signs just like a motor vehicle.
  • Ride on the right hand side of the road with traffic. If you are making a left hand turn, ride on the left side of the turn lane. You may ride in the center of the lane to avoid hazards.
  • Be predictable by riding in a straight line and following traffic laws.
  • Yield to pedestrians on crosswalks and sidewalks.
  • When riding at night, bicycles must have a white front light and a red rear light and reflector visible from the rear.
  • Carry no more persons than the number for which the bicycle is designed and equipped.
  • Two cyclists may ride side-by-side, but it is safer to ride single file.
  • Attach a rear view mirror so you can check traffic over your shoulder.

*Information provided by Louisiana Class D & E Driver's Guide (R082016): Pages 76-80

*Additional Notes:

  1. Texting or looking at social media while driving is extremely dangerous.