Bike/Car accidents are no fun, especially for the cyclist! Clearly, when 3000lbs of metal meet 20lbs of bike the outcome is not in doubt. It is not a question of 'if', it is a matter of 'how much'. I hope that you never have to experience a bike/car collision, but a lot of us have and it sucks.
There are a lot of schools of thought as to how to ride in traffic. There are some who believe that the best defense is a good offense. They make sure that cars have to deal with them on the road and they exercise all their rights, sometime in a very strident manner. Others believe that the best defense is defense and they attempt to avoid vehicular confrontations at all costs, riding as far to the right as possible, yielding the right-of-way even when they are legally entitled to it. They ride in bike lanes whenever possible and basically try to blend in.
I don't subscribe to either of these schools. I try to adopt a middle-of-the-road (no pun intended) attitude. I attempt to stay out of drivers' ways as much as possible, but in the few situations where I feel like I need to be out in traffic to be safe, I get out with the cars and let them know I am there.
But, most importantly, I try to anticipate dangerous situations. My buddy Lindsay, a former 747 pilot, calls it 'situational awareness.' It basically means that you, as a cyclist, should take the responsibility to stay concentrated when you are riding in traffic and be able to anticipate when a potentially dangerous situation might arise.
As an example, a local racer recently T-boned a car turning right. To be sure, the car should have checked to see if a rider was coming along on the right, but this racer was going 35-mph into the intersection in the middle of rush hour traffic. Riding during rush hour and approaching a confusing intersection demands the use of situational awareness. Yes, it is a downhill run and you can crank it up to a pretty high speed, but what's the downside if one of those ten cars in front of you suddenly decides to turn right. And with ten cars in the right hand lane, there is a good probability that one of them might be turning.
We as cyclists have legal rights to the use of our roads. The way we choose to exercise those rights has a direct effect on our personal health. Ride safe, ride smart and be careful out there. And try to use 'situational awareness.' It might literally save your life.
How do you ride out there?