Doing the right thing:Motorcycle Safety

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Wendell Pugh
  • 360th Training Squadron
"There are two kinds of motorcycle riders; those that have been involved in an accident and those that will." Have you ever heard anyone say that? I know I have.

As a Motorcycle Safety Foundation Instructor for the past eight years, I personally believe that statements not totally accurate. That's because we in the military have a distinct advantage over most of our civilian counterparts in that we are mandated to attend an approved basic or experienced motorcycle rider course as well as wear the proper Personal Protective Equipment.

Furthermore, hardly a day goes by that we don't hear someone talking to us about safety, especially during the Critical Days of Summer. So, here is today's safety message.

It seems, without fail, every time I teach the Basic Rider's Course, I get asked, "What kind of motorcycle should I buy?" My response is usually, "Buy as much bike as you can safely handle so you don't outgrow it within the first six months and lose interest in motorcycling."

With that said, that doesn't mean go out and buy the world's fastest sport bike immediately after you have taken a beginner riding course. To me, that just doesn't make sense. I have nothing against sport bikes; I just don't think that a beginner rider needs that much power or temptation to unleash that power.

The problem lies with a very small percentage of riders; those that think that riding 100 mph on one wheel is cool.

There are a couple of problems with that type of riding. If caught, you could face a hefty fine or even a little jail time. Worse yet, you could get killed or kill somebody.

The "unicyclists" and speed demons are not the only ones involved in accidents. According to the Hurt Study conducted by University of California, Los Angeles and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of 900 motorcycle accidents, the median crash speed was 21.5 mph. Also, the majority of the riders were between the ages of 16 and 24. This is about the average age of the students in the rider courses I have taught.

This next statistic is where we should be thanking the military for paying for our training. Ninety-two percent of accidents involved riders who were self-taught or learned from family and friends and over half had less than five months riding experience. There are a lot more stats I could throw at you, but I don't want to bore you with numbers.

If you want more, you can go to the NHTSA Web site.

Now, let's discuss a somewhat controversial subject: helmets. I'm sure everyone has seen riders without a helmet. That law, or lack thereof, does not apply to military personnel. It's pretty easy to pick out the military riders off base in Texas because we are pretty much the only people who do wear helmets.

So, when you are in town and see someone go by on one wheel and they are wearing a helmet, there is a good chance they are military. Hopefully, if you ever see that bike on base, someone will pull that person aside and give them a little "mentoring."
When I was assigned to a previous base, I did see a staff sergeant - in uniform, within one mile of the base - riding without a helmet. Luckily, I was able to talk to him rather than read his obituary.

According to the Hurt Study, about half of riders involved in fatal accidents were not wearing a helmet. Whatever your opinion of helmets, the statistics show you are less likely to die if you wear a helmet. Not to mention the fact that the Air Force may not pay your medical bills if involved in an accident.

I love motorcycling, and every time someone gets hurt or killed it seems there are more restrictions placed on us motorcycle riders. Please help us all out. Use some integrity and follow the rules. And by all means, keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down.