Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety.
It's difficult to do two things at once. Play the UK Department for Transport's game to find out how a phone call distracts you when driving. (opens new window)
At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010.
Engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times.
Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55mph, that's enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.
Walkers are especially at risk during winter. The lower angle of the winter sun increases the shadows cast by buildings and trees. Decreased daylight, shadows, and nightfall make it difficult to see walkers wearing dark or non-reflective clothing.
Dress to be seen by drivers. If you walk at night, remember that wearing white clothing does not guarantee drivers can see you. When walking at night, use a flashlight to make yourself more visible to drivers and to help light your path. It is also a good idea to wear reflective or retroreflective materials, which give off light when headlights shine on them and can be seen by drivers three times farther than white. Many stores sell walking shoes, jackets, and safety sports equipment featuring retroreflective material. Although retroreflective materials are more effective than reflective materials, both are ineffective in daytime.
Use paths and sidewalks whenever available. If you must walk on or near a road, remember to walk facing oncoming traffic, so that both you and the driver can see each other. If there's a smooth stable surface alongside the roadway, that's also a good place to walk—just stay as far to the side as possible and look for oncoming traffic.
Cars and other objects can obscure a driver's view. Cars, buses, hedges, or mounds of snow can block a driver's view. Even if a driver has stopped to let you cross the street, don't blindly accept the driver's offer because there may be another vehicle in the next lane overtaking the stopped vehicle. And the second driver can't see you because of the stopped vehicle.
Stop and look for traffic in all directions before crossing the street, and look to the left, right, and left again—even on a one-way street. And always look left last because that is the direction that cars will be coming from when you first step off the curb.
Don't rely only on traffic signs and signals. Assuming that a signal will stop traffic puts you at risk. You must look for traffic even if you are in a crosswalk and you are crossing with the light or with the walk signal. A driver who does not see or obey a sign or signal may also not be paying enough attention to see you.
Turning vehicles can be especially dangerous at intersections. Drivers are concentrating on making their turns and avoiding oncoming traffic, so they might not see you! Exaggerate your head turns so that you look in all directions, including behind you. Make sure you look for vehicles making right turns on red and for vehicles making left turns. Always make sure the driver of a vehicle that is turning sees you.
Wait for a "fresh green" when crossing at signals. Don't start to cross the street unless the traffic signal has just turned green. By waiting for a fresh green, you allow yourself the most time to cross the intersection safely.
Experienced riders know local traffic laws - and they don't take risks. Obey traffic lights, signs, speed limits, and lane markings; ride with the flow of traffic and leave plenty of room between your bike and other vehicles; and always check behind you and signal before you change lanes. Remember to ride defensively. The majority of multi-vehicle motorcycle crashes generally are caused when other drivers simply didn't see the motorcyclist. Proceed cautiously at intersections and yield to pedestrians and other vehicles as appropriate. You can increase your visibility by applying reflective materials to your motorcycle and by keeping your motorcycle's headlights on at all times, even using high beams during the day.
Visit South Dakota Rides for videos, a virtual ride and more information (opens new window)
- Allow a motorcyclist a full lane width. Though it may seem as if there is enough room in a single lane for a motor vehicle and a motorcycle, looks can be deceiving. Do not share the lane: a motorcyclist needs room to maneuver safely.
- Because motorcycles are smaller than most vehicles, they can be difficult to see. Their size can also cause other drivers to misjudge their speed and distance.
- Size also counts against motorcycles when it comes to blind spots. Motorcyclists can be easily hidden in a vehicle's blind spot. Always look for motorcycles by checking your mirrors and blind spots before switching to another lane of traffic.
- Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic. This allows motorcyclists to anticipate your movement and find a safe lane position.
- Don't be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle—it may not be self-canceling and the motorcyclist may have forgotten to turn it off. Wait to be sure the rider is going to turn before you proceed.
- Allow more follow distance — three or four seconds — when following a motorcycle; this gives the motorcycle rider more time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. Motorcycle riders may suddenly need to change speed or adjust lane position to avoid hazards such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings, and grooved pavement.