It's always nice when something you actively want to do provides benefits to another aspect of your life. In this instance, I'm talking about riding motorcycles and how that affected my abilities and skills driving a car. Since getting my license, learning the ins and outs of bikes, and spending some time playing frogger in New York City and Los Angeles traffic, my vision behind the wheel of a car has changed for the better.
Riding on two wheels gives you an entirely new view and a new level of respect for the road. Your senses are heightened. The faults of other drivers become so much more apparent. You realize small things you might be doing in your car that actually present danger to others. Recognizing this helps everybody, including yourself, on the road.
Now, when I'm in my car I'm constantly looking for and have become more aware of motorcycles. I triple check blind spots, I use my mirrors more, and I start to read and interpret a variety of new things that could present dangerous situations—like cars sweeping across multiple lanes or a car's taillights and tires pointing out when parked. Naturally, the more you're paying attention and the more defensive you drive, the less likely you are to be in or cause an accident.
One of the most dangerous things that can happen when you're riding a motorcycle is cars around you moving without indicating first. If you split lanes, it's even worse. I used to have the mindset of, "Well, there's nobody around to show that I'm changing lanes, so it's fine," but that all shifted after riding a motorcycle.
A large percentage of moto accidents happen because the car driver didn't see the bike. If moving my finger two inches to flip on my blinker at ALL times could reassure a motorcyclist even once, it's all worth it. Once is all it takes, and for something that requires basically no effort, there's no reason not to.
Braking in a car is entirely different from braking on a motorcycle. Having to worry about flying over your handle bars or your tail slipping out from underneath you on a bike gives you an entirely new appreciation for braking gently, knowing your vehicle's limits, and maintaining proper distances from the cars in front of and behind you. That's translated to my driving when I'm in a car as well. There's just no real reason to ever tail people.
Forced To Learn the Area
More than texting or tweeting or checking email when driving, looking at Waze or Google Maps distracts me the most. Moving to LA presented an extremely large new space to navigate, and when there's an app to help you beat even 10 minutes of traffic, you're probably going to use it. You can't have your phone out on your bike, though. When you have your phone in your pocket and are using gloves and a helmet, maps like that can't be your crutch.
So you actually have to look and learn your route before you get on the road (gasp!). And when you're not leaning on technology and actually understanding your routes the old-fashioned way, you retain that information. Then, when you get back in your car, you don't even need your phone anymore and can keep your eyes on the road and the road only.
Scanning Road Surfaces
If you're not paying attention on a motorcycle, the smallest pothole, branch or patch of gravel can send your bike into a frenzy. You have to constantly be looking for obstacles and actively avoid what could pose potential danger. Though it's not nearly as dangerous in a car, potholes still aren't good to drive right over. I avoid a heck of a lot more things on the road these days and my car will surely thank me for it down the road.
As I learned recently, having an instinctive reaction embedded into your system is crucial while riding a motorcycle. That preparation comes from practice and experience as well as heightened awareness of your surroundings. Obviously, I've been driving a car much longer than a motorcycle, but that extra sense just improves upon the instinct I already had.