RICKENBACKER AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, OH. -- Beautiful spring weather was a long time coming this year in Ohio. April 13 was the first really perfect day for motorcycle enthusiasts. For one unfortunate rider, it was his last day on earth.
I enjoyed a lovely ride into work. I have been riding for over 15 years. My ride home was quickly interrupted when I came across a fatal accident only a couple of miles from base.
I will never forget the sight of 10 deputies standing around the body of the accident victim, covered by a blanket, with only his boots visible. His body was thrown about 50 yards from his motorcycle.
I pulled over and took a photograph of the accident scene. I knew when I saw it that I wanted to show future drivers and riders what can happen if safety isn’t paramount. That perhaps someone would see this picture and be reminded to look twice or ride safer.
I want to share what I think are four of the most important safety tips for motorcyclists:
1. Take a motorcycle safety course.
I have taken two Motorcycle Safety Foundation courses and learned valuable information and gained new skills with each class. I had been riding for years before I took one and was surprised how much I learned. New riders, please find a safety course. It’s required to ride on military installations and likely reimbursable. Contact your wing safety office for information.
2. Wear your helmet!
I am routinely surprised at the lengths many people take to avoid wearing a helmet, especially in cold weather. Many riders bundle up in wraps, hats and face masks when a nice full face helmet would be much simpler, warmer and safer. According to the CDC, helmets reduce the risk of death by 37% and the risk of head injury by 69%. And wear all your other safety gear too: long sleeves, boots, gloves, and eye protection.
3. Check your equipment.
As a young man raising five children, money was usually tight. For years, I regularly waited to replace my tires until they were very bald. I stopped this dangerous habit when one went flat at a speed of about 45 mph. For starters, check your tire pressure, tire tread, lights, turn signals, fluids and cables. There are many comprehensive checklists available online.
4. Drive defensively!
Keep your head on a swivel. The accident pictured above happened when the car attempted to make a left turn and pulled out right in front of the motorcyclist. Always control your speed and be ready to take evasive action. Years ago, I ran into a mature doe one evening at dusk. I was traveling at 55 mph and miraculously did not go down. Ever since, I always drive at the speed limit or less on country roads where the chance of an animal encounter is high, reducing the likelihood of an accident being fatal.
May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness month. This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to motorcycle safety, just encouragement to take that safety course or reach out to the safety office for more information. Motorcycle enthusiasts, we’re vulnerable out there. Let’s be as safe as possible, enjoy the beautiful weather, and ride for years to come.