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AMA switches focus to address new driving dangers

Doubling down on its public awareness campaign around motorcycle safety, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) has turned its focus on motorists who don’t ride bikes. While that may seem counterintuitive, there’s a very good reason – it’s an effort to increase motorists’ attention to driving habits that could prove dangerous to motorcyclists.

The special appeal goes beyond simply being more aware of bike riders. The emphasis in this new effort is on checking mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes, as well as distracted driving.

There’s also a new concern – the potential for over-reliance on new driver-assist technology. Worried that motorists expect the new technology to warn them about every possible circumstance that could lead to an accident, the AMA urges drivers to remain aware of everything in their environment as they operate their vehicle. That includes the need to continue using the tried and true techniques of making an extra effort to watch for motorcycles in traffic, as well as respecting bikers’ space on the road and not following bikes too closely. This is especially critical at intersections, the AMA notes, where drivers can readily cut off a rider and put them at even greater risk.

The AMA also wants motorists to resist thinking that driver-assist technology removes some of the risks of distracted driving. Adaptive cruise control, automated braking and lane assist may help make the roads safer in several ways. Unfortunately, they don’t reduce the dangers of texting or paying attention to email, social media or other applications on mobile devices like smartphones or tablets.

Other distracted driving behaviors, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, include eating or drinking, adjusting the stereo or another entertainment system, paying attention to a navigation system, and even talking with other people in the car.

NHTSA tracks statistics on distracted driving and the data shows a sobering picture. The latest figures available from 2015, indicate a high death toll due to distracted driving – 3,477 lives lost in that year alone. Accidents involving distracted driving also injured 391,000 others.

A joint study by NHTSA and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute pins the vast majority of all crashes squarely on distracted driving. The research report attributes nearly 80 percent of accidents to what it terms ‘driver inattention’ incidents, including cell phone usage and other distracting activities. The inattentiveness events happened in the three seconds before the crash.

This new focus of the AMA will help bring more attention to distracted driving dangers and encourage drivers to pay attention to the road and the motorcyclists they share it with.

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