What’s on a safe rider’s checklist before hitting the road? There’s gear: a helmet, jacket, boots, gloves, and protective eyewear. There’s gas in the tank, of course. Headlights, brake lights and turn signals are fully operational. The fluid levels are sufficient and the tires have plenty of tread. The mirrors are properly angled and the horn sounds loud and clear. If everything checks out, then you’re almost good to go. There’s just one more thing you should elect to carry. It doesn’t increase the weight of your load, and you don’t have to plunk down any extra cash at the dealership to get it. Once you develop a good habit of carrying it, you’ll never leave it behind. It’s called a safe attitude.

We previously discussed road-sharing responsibilities of automobile operators and motorcyclists, and safe attitude is a responsibility that rests on both parties with equal weight. One could even argue that motorcyclists need to be more actively conscientious about maintaining a safe attitude. Gunning a hot rod down the open highway pumps one’s system full of adrenaline-the thrill is part of the attraction. When coupled with a safe attitude, that exhilaration can last a lifetime.

So what makes a safe attitude? It’s more than just staying positive. It also means you have control over your emotions, and can thereby better control your decisions and behavior. It means you don’t react to situations on the road in anger; you keep calm under adverse conditions; you have patience to follow traffic flow and obey signals; and you can make the decision not to ride if the risk is too great. Rider training courses usually build these principles into the curriculum, but recognize that it’s ultimately the responsibility of riders to foster a safe attitude. As the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) Rider Handbook states: “Successfully completing the Basic Rider Course is not a guarantee that you will be safe on the road…. Safe riding is also a matter of attitude, and only you can provide that.”

We can’t measure concrete stats about the health and life-saving attributes of a safe attitude like we can with helmet use. However, what’s inside your head while you’re riding contributes to safety just as much as what’s strapped on top of it. Safe attitude is especially powerful in preventing accidents altogether because it’s the mentality that governs defensive driving. When calm and clear-headed, you stay more alert to what’s going on around you. You anticipate threats to your safety and can react accordingly. A safe attitude also enables you to give other drivers the benefit of the doubt if they make a mistake. However we travel, we’re all still human.

Which leads to this final point: A safe attitude is something you’ll definitely want to have equipped in the event of an accident. Amid the chaos of a wreck, a calm and level-headed demeanor is your most valuable asset. Then you can successfully perform the critical actions you need to handle on the scene. These actions are vital because they’re the first steps that quickly get you on the path to recovery from an accident, and they secure the materials your attorney will use to assemble and pursue your case. In an article soon to come, we’ll lay out these steps for you in full detail.