Watch out! On a bike, in a car and on foot

Watch out! On a bike, in a car and on foot

Inattention is a fault common to drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, and it's one of the main causes of accidents. How should you behave, and how can modern technologies help out?

27. 4. 2021 Škoda World

Watch out! A simple warning we hear from our earliest age. And it’s particularly important when we’re on four wheels or two, or on foot in the streets and using pedestrian crossings. But how can drivers and other road users learn to minimise dangerous situations? Check out these tips for drivers and cyclists.

It’s a sad fact that drivers get up to all kinds of risky antics. They use their phones without a hands-free device, even texting and checking out social media; they eat and drink at the wheel; they rummage around in their handbag for lipstick; they play with their dog; they admire the countryside. There is no end to the things that can distract us, especially in today’s world of modern communication marvels. But it’s not only drivers who are at fault: cyclists wear headphones or weigh down their bikes with heavy bags or cycle with children in tow. And pedestrians these days tend to stare at their phones, which is particularly dangerous when crossing the road. See how car assistance systems can help.

“One of the main causes of road accidents is not paying enough attention. We look at our phones, listen to music and get distracted by sights and sounds around us. That is one of the main focuses of lots of our safety assistance systems. Blind spot assist, for example, notices cars, cyclists and pedestrians or basically any movement on either side of the car and warn the driver by flashing a light on the exterior rear-view mirrors,” says Robert Šťastný, a member of ŠKODA’s Road Safety Research team.

Robert ŠťastnýRobert Šťastný
ŠKODA Road Safety Research

Even cyclists need to think ahead

Before spring tempts you to get back on two wheels, it’s not just the bike that needs refreshing after the long winter. What should you focus on?

Listen to your body

It’s a good idea to stretch your muscles and ligaments before you set off on your bike. Take it easy at first and let your body warm up. Be aware of how you feel and learn to recognise when you’re getting tired and your body needs a bit of a rest. That moment can often arrive just when you’re feeling like the king of the road again – and it’s particularly true when you’re mountain-biking or showing off on a bike park single track. 

Stills from We Love Cycling platform’s new Traffic Dummies campaign

You should try to develop your own equivalent of a system found in modern cars. “Even though a driver gets into his car feeling fit and fresh, fatigue can set in after a while. That’s the thinking behind another safety feature that tells drivers it’s a good idea to stop and rest. If the driver stops reacting and the car senses that his driving is becoming erratic, it tries to rouse him, or even stops itself,” Šťastný says. 

Train your reaction speed as well as your muscles

Forest tracks and footpaths aren’t usually reserved for cyclists only. They are shared by people doing Alpine walking, families, people walking their dogs... Just because you’re allowed to cycle in a forest or the countryside, that doesn’t mean you have right of way. Cyclists should learn to stay aware of their surroundings. In effect, they should be expecting someone or something to jump out in front of them. And like in a car, on a bike you should only go so fast that you can come to a complete stop in the distance you can see ahead of you.

Stills from We Love Cycling platform’s new Traffic Dummies campaign

Read the terrain

It’s no secret that stones and tree roots will be slippery when it rains. That bright sunlight can dazzle you. That when it’s dry the cyclist in front can kick up so much dust that you can’t see. But lots of cyclists seem to forget. The principles that apply when you’re driving apply equally when you’re on a bike – such as keeping a safe distance from the guy in front. Everybody knows that if you’re too close, all it takes to cause a collision is a slight swerve on a wet stone or an attempt to avoid a puddle. 

Stills from We Love Cycling platform’s new Traffic Dummies campaign

Try to develop your own internal version of another driver assistance system. When you can’t see, go slow: brake before curves so you can make sure you don’t stray off course. “When a driver is not paying attention - maybe he’s stroking his dog or focusing on his kids on the back seat – it’s easy to turn the steering wheel and leave your lane. That’s what lane assist is for: it adjusts the car’s direction if it gets too close to the lane markings,” Šťastný explains.

Going on foot? 

Pedestrians have a lot of distractions to contend with as well, from billboards, eye-catching shop windows and all kinds of screens to street performers and delicious-smelling food stalls. If you’re out and about on foot, don’t let all the sights, sounds and smells of the streets distract you. There are two more key aspects of safe road use. First: be predictable. Behave in a way that lets other road users tell what you’re about to do, such as when you’re going to move to the right to avoid a dog on a leash or when you’re going to step into the road. Second: be visible. That’s particularly important on the outskirts of towns and cities, in villages or when you’re walking on the side of the road in the countryside. It’s a good idea to make sure at least one item of clothing is light-coloured, but even better are reflective patches or strips, a head-lamp or a cyclist’s flashing light in your hand.

Drivers need to put themselves in cyclists’ shoes

Drivers also have a role to play to make the roads safer for cyclists: they need to be considerate and anticipate. Besides leaving cyclists sufficient room when we overtake them – or even waiting a moment until it’s safe to pass them – what else should we keep in mind when we’re behind the wheel?

Stills from We Love Cycling platform’s new Traffic Dummies campaign

Use the “Dutch reach” when opening doors

When we get out of the car, we should be certain that no bicycles, scooters or motorbikes are approaching from behind. Swinging the door open can cause nasty crashes and injuries. Modern cars may have a blind spot assistance system, but making sure with your own eyes is best. The Dutch, who are world-famous for their love of cycling, came up with a clever trick. The “Dutch reach” involves grabbing the door handle with the hand furthest from the door. That makes your body twist to the side, so you’re much more likely to spot a moving object, at least with your peripheral vision.

Careful when turning right

This is a risky move we often see: a car overtakes a slow-moving bicycle and then makes a right turn, crossing the cyclist’s path. The cyclist either has enough time to slow down or stop, or he’s not so lucky and hits the car, often sending him flying over the car roof. In this situation, too, both driver and cyclist must bear this in mind and keep their wits about them!

Assistance systems can help in many ways, but they’re no substitute for an attentive driver.

Assistance systems need drivers

These days, there are various assistance systems to help drivers. But don’t forget that, as their name suggests, all these systems do is assist drivers. “Even the best assistance systems are useless if the driver isn’t responsible, attentive and focused,” concludes traffic expert Robert Šťastný.

Don’t be a traffic dummy

The We Love Cycling platform has come up with a safety campaign. In all the markets where ŠKODA is active, the campaign draws attention to common mistakes and carelessness on the highways and byways. But crash test dummies take the place of stuntmen in hazardous situations. Tying in with this, the campaign’s slogan is “Don’t be a traffic dummy”, meaning don’t make stupid mistakes. Don’t use your phone when you’re cycling, for example. 

The campaign is supported by seven ads – three focusing on cyclists, three on assistance systems in ŠKODA cars like the ENYAQ iV and OCTAVIA SCOUT, and one in which road safety expert Robert Šťastný explains the assistance functions that ŠKODA cars offer. As he stresses, though, paying attention is the best way to prevent accidents. And that is true whether you’re on four wheels or two. 

You can find lots of safe driving advice in this article.