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Defensive Driving – Pedestrians, Bicycles and Motorcycles

It’s summertime and more people are out enjoying the warm weather. As a delivery driver, there are many obstacles, especially in residential areas, where pedestrians, bicycles and motorcycles are hidden from view or can surprise you when distracted or not alert. They may appear on the road, at blind corners or in poorly lit areas.

Pedestrians are the most vulnerable to collisions. When a vehicle of four thousand pounds or more of steel, rubber and glass hit a 100- to 300-pound human being, it is a very uneven battle.

When one vehicle hits another vehicle, the chances of personal injury or death are one in nine, but when a vehicle hits a pedestrian, there is a personal injury or death in almost every case. These statistics are not much better for those on bicycles or motorcycles.

Delivery drivers who are aware of their surroundings and drive defensively following these key points will be able to reduce accidents or avoid them entirely.

Pedestrians

To avoid a collision with a pedestrian, remember these four words: Elderly, Young, Impaired, Night

  • Elderly are very vulnerable to collisions because of poor vision or loss of hearing. Stay alert for the elderly, particularly around nursing homes.
  • Young children under the age of 15 account for more than 20 percent of pedestrian fatalities each year. They don’t pay much attention, which is a good reason for you to pay extra attention.
  • Impaired pedestrians are those under the influence of alcohol or drugs or other conditions. Studies of pedestrian collisions indicate 35 percent or more were impaired.
  • Night is an especially dangerous time to be driving, as pedestrians are the only moving objects on the road without display lights or reflectors. Pedestrians are especially difficult to see in the fall and winter months, when they’re more likely to be wearing dark-colored clothing.

The law states drivers must exercise “due care” and take “proper precautions” to be a responsible driver under all circumstances. Be alert for pedestrians at all times. Always yield the right of way to pedestrians. Tap your horn lightly when they are nearby to get eye contact and make them aware of your presence. Slow down and be prepared to stop when a pedestrian could accidentally step into the path of your vehicle. Watch and check blind spots when backing up.

Bicycles and Motorcycles

Cyclists often travel on the roadway, but may also have bicycle lanes in busy intersections and roadways to ride in. They are expected to ride with the flow of traffic and obey the same rules and regulations, such as keeping to the right and signaling turns. Motorcycle drivers have the same rights on the road and must follow the same laws as motor vehicle drivers as well. Many cyclists do not follow these regulations, however, especially if they are younger riders.

Some important points to follow to avoid collisions with cyclists:

  • Slow down around them.
  • If they appear to be unaware, tap your horn.
  • Stay out of bicycle lanes.
  • Give them plenty of room when you overtake or pass them.
  • Blind spots on side view mirrors easily hide bicycles. Look over your shoulders and track vehicles around you to minimize blind spots.
  • Watch for cyclists that may sneak between your vehicle and the curb, especially when making right turns.
  • Be especially watchful at night, since they may have inefficient lighting or reflectors.

Some important points to follow to avoid collisions with motorcyclists:

  • Motorcycle traffic is especially heavy in the spring and summer months, so pay particular attention, as many riders are anxious to begin traveling soon after the winter season.
  • Remember that they have the right to their full lane of travel just like you do. Do not crowd their lane and always give them plenty of room.
  • Use a four second following distance in good weather and more in poor weather. Motorcycles can stop much faster on most surfaces than other vehicles and they generally drive slower on gravel roads due to instability.
  • Blind spots on side view mirrors easily hide motorcycles. Look over your shoulders and track vehicles around you to minimize blind spots.
  • Watch for motorcycles that may sneak between your car and the curb when making right turns.

Be aware of your blind spots

Scan to the left, right and behind by using your vehicle’s mirrors and side windows. Look over your shoulder to reveal the blind spots. Visual scanning is especially important:

  • At intersections,
  • When changing lanes or merging; or
  • Where people could unexpectedly dart into traffic, like congested office or retail complexes and neighborhoods. Always expect pedestrians.
Jim Miller

Jim Miller

Jim’s claims career spans over 30 years managing claim teams for various regional and national carriers. Jim has extensive experience in management overseeing claims litigation and multi-line commercial and personal lines claims. During his free time he enjoys spending time with his family and bike trips with his wife on the rails to trails biking trails.