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Motorcycle safety saves Hill AFB life

The Hill AFB Motorcycle Safety Course can save lives. Photo by Staff Sgt. Orley Tyrell

The Hill AFB Motorcycle Safety Course can save lives. Photo by Staff Sgt. Orley Tyrell

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Riding a motorcycle is an activity that many Americans will participate in during the 101 critical days of summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day. As the gas prices and temperatures continue to rise, many Airmen feel there is no better time to hop on their bikes. But before they do, there are a few things all motorcyclists should consider before hitting the road.

Riding a motorcycle can be a very exhilarating experience, but the inherent risks that go with it make it one of the most dangerous modes of transportation.

"There are a lot of things that can go wrong on the motorcycle," said Allan Woods, Program Manager for Motorcycle Safety with the Ogden Air Logistics Center Safety Office. "A lot of times, safety on a motorcycle depends on the elements. Rain, dirt, sand or rocks on the road can come up real fast and affect someone riding on a motorcycle. When you are in a car, you don't really have to worry about those things. Unexpected road hazards are responsible for a lot of motorcycle accidents."

According to Mr. Woods, another disadvantage of motorcycles is they are smaller than cars and, in turn, less visible on the road.

"Motorcycles can also be very hard to see, and a lot of times people pull out in front of them because they just don't see them," Mr. Woods said. "Motorcyclists need to make themselves seen. They should wear loud, contrasting colors, and reflectors on the helmet and upper body."

Team Hill member Roger Evans, 309th Aircraft Maintenance Wing, experienced the pitfalls of low motorcycle visibility a few weeks ago as a car pulled out in front of him at an intersection.

"I had a green light, and as I came up to the intersection I looked right, left, and then right again," Mr. Evans said. "When I looked to my right again I saw a small blue car with a person that looked like they were on a cell phone with their head turned away from me as they were rolling through the stop light.

"I looked over my shoulder to see if I'd be able to make an evasive move to my left, but saw another car. At that point, seeing that my options were closed, I put the bike down and attempted to remove myself prior to impact."

Mr. Evans said he was almost able to remove himself before he made contact with the car, but not quite. He ended up hitting the car and being thrown 18 feet. He suffered a broken wrist in the process.

"I was very lucky, I was wearing a Department of Transportation approved helmet, clear eye protection, gloves, riding jacket, riding boots and jeans," he said. "I hit the ground head first, so I'm positive my helmet saved my life."

Mr. Evans said the responsibility for motorcycle safety not only lies with motorcyclists, but also with other motorists out on the road.

"Motorcyclists need to be just like a fighter pilot and have great situational awareness and wear all the proper gear," he said. "But motorists need to share in the responsibility. Unfortunately, until they or someone they know is involved in an accident, it's hard to pull them up to that realization."

To help aid riders, Hill Air Force Base offers free Motorcycle Safety Foundation classes through the OALC Safety Office.

Motorcycle Safety Foundation courses are mandatory for all military who operate motorcycles on or off-base and Department of Defense civilians who operate a motorcycle during duty hours or on Hill AFB. To schedule the training, call 777-3333. The training is required to register as a motorcycle user on base.