News-Miner opinion: It’s summer (yes, we know, it’s technically not summer until June 21), and the roadways are filled not only with the usual supply of cars and trucks but also with bicycles and motorcycles.
And with school out for the summer now, it also means more young teenagers out on the road learning to drive.
What does all of this mean when we are on the road? It means everyone needs to have greater awareness and patience.
• Be aware and patient when encountering a student driver.
Think back to when you were young and out of school for the summer and to when and where you were learning to drive. Maybe doing so will make you recall some of the mistakes you made when you were learning or when that driver’s license was still fresh in your purse or wallet. Maybe long ago, for example, you stalled an early 1970s, manual transmission, Toyota Celica four times in a busy Lower 48 intersection and were thankful that other drivers were patient and not prone to severe horn-honking.
Now you have the opportunity to show patience with a young driver.
For example, be patient when you come up behind a vehicle that has “student driver” emblazoned on it. Be a good role model for that driver by keeping your own vehicle a safe distance behind. Do that by using the 4-second rule: Watch the rear bumper of the vehicle ahead of you pass a fixed roadside point, then count off 4 seconds. If you reach the roadside point before you count off 4 seconds, you’re following too close.
• Be aware and patient when encountering a bicyclist. Bicycles have as much right to the roadway as do cars or trucks.
The driver’s manual of the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles offers several bits of information for bicyclists and for motorists who encounter a bicyclist on the roadway. Here are a few of them:
“Bicyclists are required to obey traffic signs, signals and all other traffic laws. Always be alert for other traffic.”
“Stay out of the blind spots of vehicles. Turning cars, trucks and buses cannot see a bicycle in their blind spot. Do not pass when vehicles are turning, especially on the side to which they are making the turn.”
“Make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them, even if you have the right of way.”
“If you’re going to wear headphones while biking be sure to always keep one earbud out. There are numerous safety concerns regarding headphones while biking, including your own safety.”
“Thank motorists who have been considerate with a wave or a nod. It brightens everyone’s day and creates goodwill towards cyclists and motorists alike.”
“With the increasing use of bicycles, there is a greater need to exercise care while driving when bicyclists are present to insure their safety. Bicyclists have the right to share the road and travel in the same direction as motor vehicles.”
“Remember a bicycle is a vehicle. Bicyclists share a complex traffic environment with other larger forms of transportation. Youngsters under age 9 lack the physical and mental development to interact safely in that environment, so be careful when driving near children riding bikes.”
• Be aware and patient when encountering a motorcycle on the road. Here’s a little of what the DMV has to say about motorcycles:
“Motorcycles number less than 4% of the motor vehicle population in the U.S., yet they are involved in 11% of all motor vehicle deaths. In most motorcycle crashes, drivers of other vehicles are at fault.”
“Motorcyclists have the same rights and responsibilities on public roadways as other drivers. However, special conditions and situations often cause greater problems for motorcyclists. Drivers should be aware of these problems, so they can help share the road safely with motorcyclists.”
“Motorcycles are not easily identified in traffic. Even when drivers see them, many say it’s difficult to judge how far away motorcyclists are or how fast they are traveling. Being alert to this perceptual problem and consciously looking for motorcyclists will help avoid collisions.”
The snowless months are cherished in Interior Alaska. We’re out and about a lot more.
Whether you’re traveling by car, truck, motorcycle or bicycle, or you’re an experienced driver, a new driver or just learning, be sure to get where you’re going safely and to do what you can to make sure others sharing the road with you can do the same.