Can’t live without your wireless headphones and smartphone playlist while you’re riding your bike right next to the traffic in the street?! If so, you may want to brace yourself before reading this information about distracted cycling and the potentially life-threatening dangers and consequences that could occur as a result…
Distracted Cycling: The Facts
Most safety experts agree that more research must be done to produce meaningful qualitative and quantitative results, demonstrating explicitly, the hazards of distracted cycling. Once this occurs, scientists, legislators, and engineers will be better informed on how to create solutions. However, there is plenty of data available linking distracted behavior with accidents and deaths, and this information has been valid and substantial enough for law enforcement and officials to enforce and enact laws pertaining to certain bicyclists, who would pass the time behind the handlebars – online.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013, there were 900 bicycle accident deaths along with an estimated 494,000 emergency department patient cases, due to injuries related to bicycling. In 2014, a total of 720 bicyclists were killed in collisions with automobiles, and ironically, 86% of these bicycle deaths involved adults over the age of 20.
Because bicyclists are afforded far less protection against the force of impact out in the open than they would have sitting behind the steel barriers of a car, bicyclists experience a far greater risk of becoming injured in an accident than do motorists. Some incidents of collisions involving a cyclist and a vehicle include these typically reported moments such as when: drivers, making left-hand turns collide with cyclists riding towards them in the opposite direction; or alternatively, when a driver makes a right turn directly into a cyclist that’s been riding alongside them on the right shoulder or bike lane.
If a collision does occur, it is important to report the accident and to exchange information with that driver. After the shock wears off, you might realize that you are more severely injured than you first thought. You may also be feeling a lot less generous about the damage to your bicycle later in the week when you have to take it to get repaired or purchase an entirely new one, and find yourself assessing these potentially exorbitant costs.
Most cities have been working on making urban areas more bicycle friendly. However, at the same time, law enforcement in states like New York, are beginning to crack down on bicyclists who chat, send text messages, listen to music, and surf the internet on their smartphones while riding on the city streets at significant speeds. Progressively, more states are making the move to prohibit the use of headphones. In Rhode Island, bicyclists using earphones are subject to an $85 fine for the first citation, $95 for the second, and $140 for a third offense. There are currently seven states with laws that prohibit texting and the use of a cell phone while riding a bicycle including California, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island, and Virginia. In Pennsylvania, cyclists are considered vehicles as they are prohibited from using headsets just as drivers are. In 2016, Massachusetts State Representative Steven Howitt (R-Seekonk) was reportedly working to introduce a bill that would stop cyclists from legally wearing earbuds and headphones while riding. He told officials that drivers aren’t allowed to wear headphones and that the same rule should apply to cyclists. The bill was still pending in the Joint Transportation Committee during summer 2016.
A research study was conducted by the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), which found that the rate of cyclist deaths is increasing exponentially. Between 2005 and 2010 for example, the number of cyclist deaths increased 30%. Of course, wearing a helmet can dramatically increase your chances of survival. Seventy-four percent of fatal crashes are the result of head injuries, and 97% of bicyclists who have died in collisions were not wearing a helmet. Needless to say, distracted driving has become a major problem for cyclists. It is more important than ever to remain alert while cycling, to wear a helmet, and to also ride defensively in trafficked areas, watching out for these drivers who may also be distracted.