A recent study conducted by insurance company Carole Nash revealed that motorcyclists have a better knowledge of the rules of the road than people on four wheels. Based on the official DVSA quiz, bikers outperformed drivers on issues of road safety, identifying road signs and overtaking safely. This research backs up other studies which show that bikers make significantly safer car drivers. But why is that?
Motorbikers don’t have crumple zones or side curtain airbags to protect them in a crash, and because they’re sometimes invisible to road users on four wheels, their lives depend on their awareness of their surroundings.
Because there’s no space for making assumptions on two wheels, bikers learn to question everything. Riding like everyone is trying to kill them is also a mindset that bikers adopt, which makes their hazard perception far sharper than those who are surrounded by a wall of steel and safety.
One of the first pieces of advice you’ll receive when learning how to ride is to “look where you want to go”. This might seem like common sense, but it’s absolutely crucial in order to avoid being caught out by the target fixation phenomenon; this is where you look at the object you want to avoid and therefore steer into it.
As a result, from day one you are taught to look ahead and push your point of focus as far as possible. Riding performance motorcycles makes you think about your road craft even further. Techniques like using the vanishing point to know when to get on the throttle is the key to a safe and fast country road blast. All of these skills are fully transferable to the four-wheeled world but you’ll learn almost none of them during your normal ‘driving test’.
Checking your blindspots is something that is drilled into you during your motorcycle test, and by the time you’ve passed it’s become second nature. If you’re lucky enough to own a sports bike like the Ducati 1299, looking over your shoulder to check for traffic will become even more of a necessity. Not because the bike is slow, but because the mirrors are absolutely useless.
When learning to drive you are taught to look over your shoulder, but only for certain situations. And with more manufacturers like Mercedes installing blind spot warning systems, taking responsibility for your own surroundings is something that is going to diminish. If the bike test were compulsory for all road users, there would be far more attentive drivers on our roads.
We’re often told by insurers and roadside assistance groups that we should check our tyre pressures and oil level before we set off on a long trip. But how many of us actually do it? Ask a motorcycle rider the same question, however, and I guarantee that the majority check over their bike before each ride. Checking tyre pressures, oil levels and chain tension can be the difference between life and death.
Bikes are also a great place to start experimenting with some DIY wrenching. Everything is easily accessible and you can start off small with modifications like slip on exhausts, and then work your way up to changing brakes and suspension components. After a while of working on your bike, servicing and modifying your car no longer seems like such a daunting prospect.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of checking your phone at the lights or resetting your sat-nav on the move. But once you’ve taken to two wheels you gain a whole new appreciation of focusing on the road.
Sitting higher up on a bike allows you to see most road users’ bad habits and a five-minute ride will reveal all manner of bad habits. With time, bikers develop a ‘sixth sense’ making it easy for them to determine what each driver is doing just from the way they are placing their car on road.
For bikers, the weather is everything. It dictates if and when you go out for a ride, which bike you take (if you’re lucky enough to have more than one) and even what protective gear you wear. Obviously it’s possible to get caught out by the conditions, but thinking ahead before you’ve even set off is something that some four-wheeled road users could really benefit from.
Now granted, there’s not much need to plan ahead when driving to work on a sunny summer’s day, but future planning has come in handy many times during the winter.