The MSF Basic RiderCourse Made Me A Safer Driver

I consider myself to be a pretty attentive driver. Even though I live in a city where driving is not encouraged or the norm, I’m driving fairly often, thanks to my job (working here), and the city forces you to be at attention, often. But after completing the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic Rider Course, and earning my license to ride, I realized I was now an even safer driver.

Full Disclosure: The Motorcycle Safety Foundation ran a media-only course at Lehman College in the Bronx, and let me participate free of charge. They supplied the bike I rode and the instructors. MSF also provided me with a new Shoei helmet and a pair of gloves free of charge. Motorcycle apparel company Saint was kind enough to supply me a pair of riding pants, a jacket and other pieces of padding for rider safety.

Photo: Steve DaSilva / Jalopnik

One of the biggest lessons you take away from MSF’s Basic Rider Course, outside of learning how to ride a motorcycle, – is how to be alert on the roads. You might also think of this as being a defensive driver. As you may have your driver’s license first, you know that other drivers are not paying attention to what they’re doing. As a rider, you have to constantly be “on” and vigilant, by creating exit strategies and looking ahead.

Those strategies quickly came into play for me. Recently, I was driving down a rural Pennsylvania road in a 2023 Alpina XB7 when a deer jumped in front of my 6,000-pound family hauler. This is where some of my MSF lessons really shined. I had already been scanning the road ahead to see easy ways out of situations or setting up those “exit strategies”. So, when the deer popped out, I was able to drive a bit onto the dirt and gravel on the shoulder The car may have gotten a little dirty, but Bambi was spared and I didn’t have to explain to BMW that their $150,000 truck was destroyed.

Image for article titled The MSF Basic RiderCourse Made Me A Safer Driver

Photo: Steve DaSilva / Jalopnik

Every situation you encounter on the road will be a little bit different, of course. But the Basics course will teach you how to navigate most risks or hazards you encounter on the road, like my experience, safely. Would it be better to swerve, step on the brakes or accelerate through a road hazard? In class, we learned that for smaller obstacles, it’s probably better to accelerate right over them. Meanwhile, larger hazards require us to either: a) hit the brakes, hard or b) swerve because you simply don’t have enough room to stop. If you were to encounter a deer standing in the middle of the road, depending on how fast you’re going, it will likely be a better move to swerve out of harm’s way. That’s why your new riding skills are so important.

You’ll also find that you are more hyper-aware of other motorcyclists. Let’s face it, motorcycles are fairly small machines when compared to today’s cars and it’s easy to lose sight of them at an intersection, in your blind spots, in a lane you’re about to merge into, or really, anywhere. But, because I’m now hyper-aware of the dangers motorcyclists face, I am checking my blindspots and surroundings for fellow riders almost consistently. I’ve also gotten a lot better about checking my mirrors, even while driving along a straight bit of road. You never know what’s coming up behind you or next to you. If I do happen to see a bike, I try to make sure I know where it is at all times, and if room on the road permits, I’ll do my best to give it a little bit more room as it passes by.

Image for article titled The MSF Basic RiderCourse Made Me A Safer Driver

Photo: Steve DaSilva / Jalopnik

So right now, I have my motorcycle license, but I do not have a motorcycle. Not yet, anyway. And, even if I don’t get one relatively soon, the proactive, safe driving skills I gained over that weekend in the Bronx have proven to be absolutely invaluable for my driving as a whole.


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