From the smartphone that is always within reach to the activity tracker that is built into a wristwatch, technology has grown from a novelty to a trusted resource. Most people rely heavily on technology to supply them with information and perform tasks that are critical to getting through each day. And though motorcycle riders like to think of themselves as a different breed, they have also embraced much of the latest technology.
But maybe they shouldn’t.
A major part of being a safe rider is being ultra-focused on your surroundings. A study in Florida found that when police officers spoke to car drivers who were involved in an accident with a motorcycle, 90% reported that they did not see the motorcycle. This is why riders must remain vigilant, and using newfangled devices might not be the best way to do that. For motorcyclists, defensive driving is a means of survival. As motorcycle accident attorneys, we’ve seen it all, and we want to encourage you to:
- Ignore the phone. Cell phones have become far more than a device that allows people to speak to one another. Now, a smartphone offers all of the features of a computer: the ability to search the Web; GPS and mapping features; and entertainment, including music and the ability to watch a movie. These features are great when you’re riding on a bus or sitting in the waiting room at a doctor’s office, but trying to focus on a tiny screen when operating a motorcycle can be deadly. To see how tiny a 12-square-inch screen is in comparison to a rider’s field of vision, hold your hand up with your arm fully extended. You can clearly see it, but it is less than 1% of your field of vision. Now write your name on a Post-It note and place the note in the palm of your hand. Again, extend your arm fully and look at your hand. To read your name you must stop scanning your field of vision and focus on the piece of paper on your palm, which means you are ignoring the vast majority of your field of vision.
- Avoid GPS navigation. Even though GPS on a cell phone is a great way to navigate, that feature is also putting a rider at great risk due to a visual and mental distraction. Even a hands-free or sound-only device can distract and confuse you while riding, so be cautious.
- Pull over safety to respond to a text or email. Texts and emails involve taking your eyes off of the road and also removing a hand from the handlebar to activate the phone screen or even worse, type in a response. When operating a motorcycle, both hands are used to steer, but each hand also has another job. The right hand operates the throttle and a brake lever. The left hand operated the clutch lever, which is needed to shift gears or disengage the motor. So having both hands on the handlebars at all times is important. The split second that it takes to return a hand to a grip could be the difference between avoiding an accident and a life-threatening crash. No text or email is worth risking your life to respond to.
What About “Motorcycle-Friendly” Technology?
Some people attribute the high number of collisions to the increased popularity of cameras such as GoPro devices being mounted on bikes or worn on helmets. Any type of camera is a potential danger for motorcycle riders. Reaching up to snap still pictures or fiddling with a video camera is taking away much-needed focus on your surroundings and other motorists. If a rider wants to film his ride, then he should mount the camera securely and turn it on before the ride begins. Then, the rider never needs to touch or think about the camera until the motorcycle is safely stopped. In fact, this may even be a helpful feature in the event of a crash, because it provides evidence of what really happened.
Another new motorcycle-specific gadget is NUVIZ: the first head-up display accessory for motorcycles that can be added to a rider’s helmet. The information from the device is projected so it appears about 10 feet in front of the rider. This eliminates the need to look down at a cell phone for navigation information or to select music, which sounds like a good idea. But as with any new device, there is a learning curve. Unlike in a video game, a motorcycle rider’s life would depend on his ability to use the head-up display correctly. Until you’re sure you can work it, we recommend staying away from head-up technology on your ride.
Any type of distraction on the road can have a life-changing result. If you were in a motorcycle accident, contact Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C., immediately. As experienced motorcycle accident attorneys in New Jersey, this team of professionals will inform you of your rights and guide you through the legal process. Call today at (609) 240-0040 for your free consultation.