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2011 - Year of Motorcycle Safety, ride smart

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Scott Saldukas
  • 47th Flying Training Wing public affairs
This year was deemed as Year of Motorcycle Safety by Air Force leadership May 6, for the entire Air Force family and is asking motorcyclist to pay attention and commit themselves to motorcycle safety.

Air Force officials are placing such a high emphasis on motorcycle safety not only because the risks of riding a motorcycle are always present, but also for the fact that motorcycle fatalities have risen more than 150 percent since January, compared to the same time period last year.

To help counter the rising number, motorcycle safety training courses are offered to riders at most Air Force installations and should be taken advantage of, said Ricardo Espinoza, 47th Flying Training Wing safety and occupational health specialist.

"The courses are educational with training topics such as operating a motorcycle, best means of protective clothing and gear, how to avoid and get out of dangerous situations," he said. "Despite all the safety training and education a rider may have there is no telling when you may encounter a car."

Espinoza noted that the majority of car-on-motorcycle accidents tend to be at the fault of the cars.

"Most often, the driver of the car either doesn't see the motorcycle or misjudges its speed or distance and pulls out in front of it," Espinoza said. "With that in mind, it's definitely a two way street when it comes to safety between the motorcycle rider and car driver out on the road."

For one Laughlin member, safety was imbedded the hard way in 2005.

"A motorcycle rider in front of me lost control and hit an oncoming car," said Troy Minton, 47th Operations Group T-6 simulator instructor. "He bounced back in front of me. In missing him and a following car, I left the road. The motorcycle flipped, I departed and hit the ground."

The rider who hit the car died approximately 15 minutes following the accident while Minton had a compound shattered fracture in his right leg, cut on left knee, bruises on his back and a cut on his chin.

"I was wearing complete gear of high quality safety equipment," he said. "Without it, my injuries would have been greater. Especially the helmet, as I did sustain a mild concussion."

He said the other rider may have had maintenance issues with steering bearings on his bike that may have led to a front wheel shimmy and affected his turn. When he over braked, it caused the rear wheel to slide, resulting in a low side lay down.

"He was using a hard compound tire for better mileage," Minton said. "With his braking, I moved too close to him for what resulted. I now give riders in front of me a lot of room."
From experience, Minton recommends taking the extra time to make sure personal protective equipment is correct along with extra vigilance.

"Always dress for the crash," he said. "Keep your motorcycle in top condition. Don't try to save money with hard compound tires. Loss of traction killed the rider. Stay alert; never trust your fellow riders completely. They can make a series of mistakes that could cost them and you."

While Minton's accident took place a few years ago, the most recent recorded accident at Laughlin was September of 2010.

"I hope that continues to be the last motorcycle mishap," Espinoza said. "No matter how long you've been riding, the risks of riding a motorcycle are always a concern. A motorcycle rider can always improve their skills though safety education, training and practice. These are three core factors that can increase your riding enjoyment and decrease your chance of a mishap."