Modes of Transportation

On a Motorcycle, Beware of Distractions

There are many different sources of driver distraction. Things like handling a GPS, a communications system or a radio, or even your surroundings, can be very distracting when you are riding a motorcycle.

Driver distraction refers to anything that decreases drivers’ concentration and diverts their attention from driving. Everyone can be prone to distraction at one time or another. Realizing that you can be distracted and planning strategies for avoiding distractions at important moments is a step in the right direction.

Driver distraction has many sources. These are both internal (stemming from the driver) and external (stemming from the surroundings).

There are 4 types of distraction:

  • visual: your eyes are not on the road
  • manual: your hands are not on the handlebars or wheel
  • cognitive: you are concentrating on something other than driving
  • auditory: you are concentrating on listening to sounds other than those related to driving or the road (for example, a telephone ringing or music)

Distraction can affect more than one function at a time. Oftentimes, a task performed while driving is the source of many types of distraction. For example, sending a text message is a source of cognitive, visual and manual distraction.

What is cognitive distraction?

Cognitive distraction occurs when your mind is focused on something other than driving. It happens when a distinct activity, like talking on the phone or to a passenger or listening to music, results in a significant cognitive load and decreases the availability of attentional resources.

Sources of cognitive distraction lead to:

  • an interruption of brain activity in certain areas that are required for driving safely
  • increased reaction times
  • failure to notice information cues
  • a decreased visual field (tunnel vision)

Ways to fight cognitive distraction

Reducing the occurrence of cognitive distraction is key. It is a good idea to:

  • rest more
  • avoid information overload (use of technology, conversation in the vehicle, etc.)
  • avoid driving while experiencing very strong emotions (stressful or emotionally difficult situations)
  • take breaks when making long trips along monotonous roads to avoid driving on automatic pilot.

Distraction is one of the main causes of traffic accidents

Distracted driving is one of the causes of accidents resulting in bodily injury most often mentioned by police officers on accident reports. This is also the case for accidents involving motorcyclists, for whom distraction remains one of the main causes of accidents, regardless of the type of injury sustained.

Electronic devices

Although technology can be of great help to drivers, some technologies go too far and become significant sources of distraction. This is especially the case for electronic devices.

Prohibition from using electronic devices while driving

Using a portable electronic device while driving is strictly prohibited. As soon as you are operating a road vehicle in a traffic lane, you are driving. Even when you are stopped at a red light or stuck in traffic, you are driving and may not use your cell phone.

Authorized screens

Authorized screens must display information that is useful for driving, such as:

  • tire pressure
  • fuel consumption
  • activation of various systems, such as traction control
  • road conditions, including obstacles and the condition of the pavement
  • weather conditions, like visibility and temperature
  • the itinerary (GPS)


A GPS (for Global Positioning System) is very useful for finding your way when travelling. While very useful for navigating, it can be a source of distraction for the driver and should be used with caution. If you need to program it or input data, do it before you are on the road.

Communication systems

When riding a motorcycle, good communication is essential. Whether riding with a passenger or in a group, you need to be able to exchange information without jeopardizing your safety. Given the special conditions motorcyclists face (wind, noise, distance from one another when travelling in a group, wearing a helmet, etc.), some motorcyclists prefer an intercom-type communication system. Use of this technology may impair your concentration.

Conversations, radio, music and GPS instructions can be very distracting, making you less alert and preventing you from reacting correctly to changing road conditions. These technologies should be used judiciously, and you must remain vigilant at all times.

Last update: June  6, 2022