I completely agree w/ you in that you must ride proactively and mitigate as much risk as possible... I think that relates well to not riding beyond your skills, situational awareness, distance checking, etc... However, when I ride, I make the *assumption* at every intersection, that someone's going through it, or at every light that someone's going to run it, or that the cager behind me is too busy checking their phone to check the bike they're following... The one time I failed to double check that last assumption, I woke up looking into a the blurred face of a chubby cop bending over me...I tell my MSF students that every ride is a learning opportunity, and if you are not learning, not building your rider intuition, not advancing your situational awareness on every ride, you are likely going to have traffic issues. And contrary to what a lot of people feel, MOST riders ride themselves into their own issues by their action but mostly by their LACK of actions. ONLY we riders have the best option to reduce our risks. ONLY we riders can do something to reduce our risks. If you expect other road users to consider you, watch for you, respect your rights on the road, then you are missing the fact that YOU, FIRST, are the one most responsible for what happens to you on every ride.
Yes it helps to ride defensively, but I feel that means you are riding REACTIVELY, in other words you react to what happens around you which often means you are riding in a higher risk situation. I coach riders to ride PROACTIVELY, meaning thinking about and doing everything to avoid riding into trouble. Some things you can do to greatly reduce your risks of riding: 1. Create more space/don't follow so close. 2. Do anything you can to improve your visibility, which also relates to creating more space around you, in all directions. 3. Any time you have a traffic issue, don't just blame the other road users, FIRST analyze everything you did/didn't do in the seconds before that issue, and you WILL find things that brought you to the issue. 4. Admit/accept your responsibility to control your risks.
If you start with that, and learn from everything YOU do when riding, your risk issues will decrease dramatically. I ride two to three times the national average in all kinds of weather, and I rarely have issues in traffic.
All those assumptions are defensive actions, and with that one exception above, I've managed to avoid any other issues in 30 years of riding... and that includes the occasional aggressive ride through the north Ga mountains, or up into the Tennessee twisties... I think it's a bit presumptuous to believe that you can control all the variables, all the carelessness, all the make-up prep, texting, and other distractions taking place around you, or channel another driver's attitudes, intentions, or unexpected maneuvers, via your own "proactive" riding.
Btw, I have enormous respect for the MSF and think it should be *mandatory* nationwide (to protect those around bikers, as much as bikers themselves)...