Distracted drivers and unpredictable cyclists cause tension on the road

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The FINANCIAL — A new poll from PEMCO Insurance confirms the source of tensions that many commuters witness between drivers and cyclists on Northwest roads: drivers who don’t pay attention to their surroundings and cyclists who dismiss traffic laws that apply to cars and bicycles alike.

The latest PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll asked respondents across Washington and Oregon to consider the greatest source of conflict for both drivers and cyclists.

According to the poll, though two-thirds of Northwest drivers (63 percent) say they’re comfortable driving alongside cyclists, more than half (56 percent) say that cyclists who ride unpredictably cause the biggest problem for drivers on the road.

For many drivers, the crux is simply a matter of following the rules. About one-third of drivers (34 percent) say the greatest conflicts occur when cyclists break standard traffic laws such as speeding and running red lights or stop signs. Another quarter (22 percent of drivers) say that tensions arise most when cyclists use a double standard, following the rules that most benefit them in the moment.

Meanwhile, PEMCO poll respondents share significant concern for drivers’ attentiveness. The poll confirms that distracted drivers cause the greatest conflict for cyclists – 58 percent of them note that drivers who don’t pay attention and those who are simply unaware of road-sharing rules pose the biggest threat to those on bikes.

“Distracted driving is dangerous for everyone on the road, but the consequences can be especially grave for cyclists,” said Jon Osterberg, PEMCO spokesperson. “It makes sense that more residents named distracted driving over any other concern for cyclists.”

Of course, cyclists are also concerned with drivers who may have more malicious intent, but fewer name it as the biggest problem with drivers – 27 percent of those polled say that deliberate actions from drivers, such as passing too closely or cutting cyclists off, is the primary cause of tensions on the road.

“Commuters of all kinds are sharing the road more than ever these days, and we’re bound to see even more bikes on the road with spring here,” Osterberg said. “No matter how you travel, or your comfort level with fellow commuters, sharing the road safely is everyone’s responsibility.”

But the poll reveals that many cyclists could go further to protect themselves on the road. More than half (54 percent) fail to wear a helmet every time they get on a bike. Even more alarming, 29 percent of Oregonians admit to never wearing one.

“Though not all Washington and Oregon cities and counties require helmets, it’s disturbing that almost one in three Oregonians admit they risk their safety so blatantly,” Osterberg said.

Washington and Oregon don’t have statewide laws requiring cyclists to wear helmets, though 22 cities and counties in Washington require mandatory helmet use for all ages. In Oregon, helmets are required statewide for all children under 16 years old.


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