The National Safety Council (NSC, http://www.nsc.org ) declared April as ‘Distracted Driving Awareness Month’; a worthy topic for this newsletter, right at the start of the riding season, with the goal to spark some thoughts about this subject when riding a motorcycle.
It will be quick, just changing the playlist or radio station. I know the road, this is my daily commute, and this section is straight….so I start tapping on my touch screen with gloves on, but to no avail. Alright, straight line, cruise control on….let’s take the glove off, scroll on the device to where I need to get to, then have plenty of time to put the glove back on and continue riding….that went on for, give or take, a quarter mile, at 50 mph, and I have no recollection of the road for the past (roughly) 20 seconds. “Now, that was a stupid idea!” sounds the voice of reason in my head, and a rush of guilt for the remainder of my commute. I realize how lucky I just got, no other traffic, no pothole or other road hazard. Whew!
I’m describing a fictional scenario, but it helps with understanding the major three types of distractions: Visual (taking my eyes off the road to interact my entertainment system), manual (operating my smart display), and cognitive (focus on operating the device, and dealing with the guilt dished out by my inner voice for much longer than the actual visual or manual period).
Two of the three types above are easily recognized and quickly corrected or avoided: Taking a few minutes to prepare for the ride, program the GPS, choose the right playlist, ensure action cameras are set up the way you want it to, and powered gear has functional connections is an easy way to remove any visual or manual distractions. Same goes for a pre-ride bike check, to silence those pesky dashboard warning messages. Putting the phone away or “Do not disturb”, even screen off will minimize distractions by pop-ups or moving graphics.
And, if your playlist stops after 2 hours, it’s probably a good time for a stop anyway, which also helps with re-freshen and re-focusing for the next portion of the trip.
When your mind starts shifting focus to interact with the smart devices, phone calls, or voice control (my favorite!), it’s much harder to disengage. After all, hands-free is much safer, right? Remember the last time you tried to tell your digital assistant to text a friend, or select a specific artist, while wearing a helmet…. Did that work at first try? Did those multiple events of you demanding “No, cancel!”, and repeat “Send text to […]” get you even more aggravated, more distracted? Maybe even to the point when you were tempted to type it instead?
As motorcycle enthusiasts and avid riders, we tend to point out other distracted drivers. But these days, we have almost equal access to smart devices and gadgets, built into our bikes, or easily added to our gear; and with those comes the opportunity to get equally distracted, with the main difference that there is no safety cage around us, no four wheels keeping us still going if one drops off the pavement or into a pothole. Our focus needs to be on the road ahead and have us ready to counter potential hazards that are not within our control.
Spring is here, a new riding season! Let’s pledge to minimize controllable distractions, enjoy the world around us, not the small screen in front of us! If the action camera wasn’t aligned properly, another reason to come back and enjoy this missed part of the trip again (remember to log the Ride365 miles)! Get in the right (calm and focused) mindset, for the time we ride, leave those troubles behind!
Keep the shiny side up! Ride safely and have fun!