2018-05-11 / Viewpoint

The importance of motorcycle PPE

Scott Davis
Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point


Courtesy photo Courtesy photo Who needs personal protective equipment? Not me … at least that’s what I used to think.

When I was 8 years old, my best friend got a mini-bike for his birthday. I immediately wanted one too. Unfortunately, my mom and dad were just like all the adults in the movie “A Christmas Story.” But rather than, “You’ll shoot your eye out,” all I heard was, “You’ll kill yourself.”

Years went by and I never got my mini-bike. Once I got married, though, I thought I’d revisit the idea and buy a motorcycle. But now it was my wife (the paramedic) who protested, saying, “No way! Someone won’t see you and you’ll get killed.” For the record, I always thought that argument was a little weak since my job was being a Marine. But still, I didn’t get a bike.

Fast forward 20 or so years and retirement was finally on the horizon. So what did I do? Well, I did what any 44-year-old retiring Marine does — I went out and bought a motorcycle! I wanted to do it right, though, so I went through all the rider training, heard all the stories – from the instructors and my wife — and served as a ground safety officer for several different units in the Marine Corps.

I started slowly, at first only riding in my neighborhood. I eventually progressed to riding to work, and then participating in group rides with the guys on the weekends. With each new level, I further built up the motorcycles-aren’t-that-dangerous mentality. As I continued to increase my learning, the it-won’t-happen-tome attitude also started rearing its ugly head.

During this time, the Marine Corps was going back and forth on various motorcycle polices, including whether we should be required to wear a riding jacket or just a long-sleeved shirt. The final decision was that a long-sleeved shirt would suffice. Since retiring, I’d worn short-sleeved shirts to work as a contractor on base, but I had to comply with the regulations. Since North Carolina summer mornings can be hot and muggy, I bought a very thin long-sleeved running type shirt that would satisfy the requirement without causing me to overheat. I figured I could always take off the shirt once I got to work. By now I had gotten so comfortable with my abilities that I was also wearing sneakers, and sometimes shorts, on weekend rides.

One evening while coming home from work, a young girl turned right on red without stopping just as I was turning left against traffic. I collided with her vehicle and was thrown to the ground, my bike landing on top of me. Once paramedics arrived, I was taken to the hospital for treatment. Fortunately, my only injury was a severe case of road rash on my arm.

What saved me from further injuries was the fact that I had just left work. I was wearing safety boots, not as PPE for riding, but as a requirement for my job. I was also wearing gloves because I hadn’t had a chance to take them off since leaving the installation. North Carolina has a helmet law, so my head was protected, which is more than I can say for my arm. The thin long-sleeved shirt I was wearing offered little protection from the asphalt, hence the road rash.

So I ask again, “Who needs PPE?” Well, for one, I do. And you do too! I hope this will be a lesson that it can happen to you. The old adage “Dress for the slide, not the ride” is now “tattooed” on my arm. It was a painful lesson I won’t soon forget. Keep the shiny side up!

Return to top