I’ve been riding motorcycles for decades, so the other day, as I pulled out of my driveway on my most recently acquired bike, I couldn’t help being reminded about the similarities between riding a motorcycle and carrying a firearm. Both activities require us to rethink our usual behavior, at least if we want to avoid hospitals and/or jail cells.

For example, if you operate a motorcycle exactly as you “normally” do when driving a car, you will very likely increase the odds of meeting emergency room staff…if not a coroner. There are several reasons, the most obvious being that you are at greater risk than when driving.

For one thing, people in cars just don’t see us. For another, we are simply more vulnerable than we are when belted into, and surrounded by, thousands of pounds of metal (OK, save the Corvette jokes). Thus, what would have been a mundane low speed “fender-bender” between two four-wheeled vehicles becomes a potentially crippling or deadly event when one of the participants is on a motorcycle.

Likewise, as soon as we walk out of our homes carrying a gun, we too are at greater risk of an unpleasant encounter with the American legal system, and should adjust our behavior accordingly. After all, if we act no differently when carrying a gun than we do when we are unarmed, we are being as reckless as the biker who does not adjust his behavior when he leaves his SUV and hops on his bike.

For even if we don’t ever get into a situation where we actually have to shoot somebody, the mere fact that we have a gun means we will be looked at differently, should anything unpleasant happen. For example, road rage is stupid (and dangerous) enough; engaging in road rage while armed has proven to be both dangerous and costly.

Another area where riding and carrying are extremely similar is that in both cases, the need for situational awareness increases exponentially. Of course, it always pays to be aware of your surroundings, even if you’ve never owned a motorcycle—or a gun. But when riding, or carrying, paying attention to what is going on around us is absolutely critical.

In my carry permit classes, I usually ask if there are any bikers in the group, and frequently the answer is yes. And not surprisingly, when we start talking about “situational awareness” they usually “get it” quicker than the rest of the students—they’ve already learned, some the hard way, what happens when you let your attention wander, or worse, you do something stupid. Hint: if you’re on a motorcycle and engage in road rage with someone in a car or truck, the odds of coming out “shiny side up” are NOT in your favor.

Same goes for anyone who carries a firearm. If you are not paying attention, or do something reckless (like the previously mentioned “road rage” nonsense, or getting into arguments over silly things like parking places), the odds of you coming out on top in court are likewise severely diminished.

Finally, I can’t help noting something both groups have in common. Smart riders never drink and ride. And drinking and carry a firearm is something anyone who carries should also avoid.

Then there are those of us who both ride motorcycles AND carry a gun. For us, the warnings go double.

Be smart. Be safe.