2017-09-08 / Viewpoint

Motorcycle riding – The master of your fate

KNOWLEDGE MAGAZINE

The adrenaline rushes through your body, making you feel invincible. The wind is in your face and the world at your feet.

The seemingly unlimited power at your fingertips is intoxicating. These are the things I felt when I rode my first motorcycle at age 11. It never occurred to me how inherently dangerous it was as I tore up the hills behind my childhood home.

Motorcycle safety was never a priority; it was just something that came along with riding. I always made sure I was in the correct gear - leather over-the-ankle boots, long pants, full-fingered gloves, DOT-approved helmet and, of course, my trusty motorcycle jacket. But I never felt unsafe flying down the freeway at 120 mph or splitting lanes in traffic. I figured as long as I was aware and on guard constantly, my gear would protect me if something were to happen.

It wasn’t until 2013 that I felt fear while on a motorcycle. It was midafternoon, and I was riding with a buddy through downtown. We were staggered a bit with him in the lead. As we crossed through an intersection, a city bus began turning left in front of us. One second my friend was next to me, the next he was through the front windshield of that bus. It literally ate him whole.

I managed to avoid the collision and not lose control of my bike. My heart was in my throat as I dismounted and ran to my friend’s aid. Expecting the worst, I was astonished he only suffered minor cuts and lacerations. All I could think was, “He’s going to walk away from this!” That’s when I realized how lucky he’d been. If he wasn’t wearing a proper helmet and other PPE, he would have suffered more serious injuries – possibly life-threatening – as his body was protected from the glass by his motorcycle jacket. At that moment, motorcycle safety became a priority because I realized it could have easily been me.

Jump ahead three years and I was sitting in a 10-week safety training course. As the motorcycle safety portion came up, I zoned out. It seemed obvious. Riding a motorcycle can be dangerous. If anyone knows this it’s a Soldier. Training courses must be completed, inspections must be performed and so on. I assumed everyone was aware of motorcycle safety. I was wrong.

Later that day, I met a private first class who had recently bought a new Yamaha R6. As we gathered around admiring his new ride, I couldn’t help but notice he was wearing shorts, a T-shirt and sneakers. I wondered how he got the bike to where we were, but I never considered he had ridden it while dressed so poorly. That was my mistake. Not only did he ride like that; it was a common occurrence.

I was dumbfounded. How could an E-3 not understand the stupidity of his actions? Then the bomb dropped. In addition to not wearing the proper PPE, he didn’t even have a license - nor had he taken the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic RiderCourse, which is required by the Army. I laid into this guy about what an unnecessary risk he was taking, not only with his life but the lives of others.

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