On Eric's Blog, a debate is raging on the topic of safety on a motorcycle. It's an old debate, and we're not about to end it here.
I have some thoughts from my experience, and they're too verbose to stuff into a comment on his blog, so I'm writing them here:
Riding a motorcycle feels risky, so I tried to be more careful, more focused, and more aware of my surroundings when on a bike. Riding is an "engaging" experience. Leaning, wind, noise, etc., all draw your attention to the riding & away from distractions. It's also harder to read a book, talk on the phone, listen to music, or fight with your spouse or child on a bike, so you are less likely to be distracted.
These factors all have the potential to reduce the chance of getting into an accident, including accidents due to another driver's mistake.
After the first year of riding, I had a much improved ability to predict the actions of other drivers & to anticipate possible risks. Those skills translate back to car driving as well. I used to say that I was safer on a bike than I was as a car driver before I started riding. (Read that again until it makes sense.)
I learned to sense how aggressive a driver is, and thereby predict whether they will try to jump into a small space, or change lanes erratically in an attempt to get ahead.
If someone tailgates me, I am careful to leave myself enough stopping distance to compensate. I also try to make it easy for them to pass me, to difuse the tension of the situation.
I watch the activity of cars well ahead of me, and get clues about an upcoming need to break. I am aware of being in the blind spot of another vehicle. I avoid getting boxed in, with a car on each side of me.
I signal for 3 seconds before lane changes, and generally try to avoid pissing off other drivers. We're all in this together. We have to share the experience of using this road. I want it to go as smoothly, safely, and pleasantly as possible, for everyone.