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USTRANSCOM riders observe Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month in May and every day

As the weather warms up, more motorcycle riders are on the road. Keep your eyes out for riders and when you ride, wear protective gear.

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. – The next time you decide to use your cell phone while driving your car and think you feel a thump, or hear someone shouting, drop the phone and look around, you may have nearly hit a motorcycle rider, or worse.

Similar situations occur every day and U.S. Transportation Command‘s Maj. Kent Christen relayed such an experience he had last fall while on his 2005 BMW F650GS.

“I was exiting the base in the left lane of the Belleville gate, with a maroon Ford SUV in the right lane,” Christen said.  “As we were breaking the plane of the guard shack, the SUV driver began to drift into my lane.

“When I looked at the driver, she was looking down,” Christen continued, “doing something with her cell phone.  I assume she was texting or reading an e-mail, perhaps dialing a number.”

According to Christen, the SUV was close enough for him to reach out and pound on, but he wisely did not.

“I wasn't sure what her reaction would be,” Christen said.  “I was afraid she'd overreact and really splatter me across the side of her car.  I slammed on my brakes and pulled around to the right lane.  She was fully in my lane as her rear bumper passed in front of me. 

“I sped up and honked my horn,” Christen added.  “She was still head-down, looking at her phone and didn't acknowledge me.”

In a much more serious incident, a Joint Enabling Capabilities Command soldier, stationed at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. was killed March 28 in Tampa.

The 30-year-old staff sergeant was riding his Harley-Davidson when a vehicle driven by a civilian failed to yield the right of way and the motorcycle struck the car.  The staff sergeant was thrown from the motorcycle.  He was not wearing a helmet or reflective vest. They were in his saddlebags on the motorcycle.

As the weather warms, more and more two- and three-wheeled vehicles appear on roads across the country.  The National Safety Council encourages motorists to share the road with motorcyclists and be extra alert when they are nearby as it proclaims May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.

With this in mind, Master Sgt. Christopher Tripp, USTRANSCOM Facilities, Engineering and Safety project manager offers the following information to help reduce motorcycle and four-wheeler accidents.

Over half of all fatal motorcycle crashes involve another vehicle. Most of the time, the motorist, not the motorcyclist, is at fault. There are a lot more cars and trucks than motorcycles on the road, and some drivers don't "recognize" a motorcycle - they ignore it (usually unintentionally).

 - Because of its small size, a motorcycle can be easily hidden in a car's blind spots (door/roof pillars) or masked by objects or backgrounds outside a car (bushes, fences, bridges, etc). Take an extra moment to look for motorcycles, whether you're just changing lanes or turning at intersections.

 - Because of its small size, a motorcycle may look farther away than it is. It may also be difficult to judge a motorcycle's speed. When checking traffic to turn at an intersection or in to (or out of) a driveway, be aware that a motorcycle may be closer than it looks.

 - Motorcyclists often slow by downshifting or merely rolling off the throttle, thus not activating the brake light. Allow more following distance. At intersections, realize that a motorcyclist may slow down without visual warning.

 - Motorcyclists often adjust position within a lane to be seen more easily and to minimize the effects of road debris, passing vehicles, and wind. Understand that motorcyclists adjust lane position for a purpose, not to be reckless or show off or to allow you to share the lane with them.

 - Turn signals on a motorcycle usually are not self-canceling, thus some riders (especially beginners) occasionally forget to turn them off. Make sure a motorcycle's signal is intentional.

 - Maneuverability is one of a motorcycle's better characteristics, but don't expect a motorcyclist to always be able to dodge out of the way.

 - Stopping distance for motorcycles is nearly the same as for cars, but slippery pavement makes stopping quickly difficult. Allow more following distance behind a motorcycle because it can't always stop "on a dime."

Tripp also stresses that motorcyclists on base must have a motorcycle endorsement on a valid state issued drivers license.  Military riders must also have a Motorcycle Safety Foundation class card in their possession.

Motorcyclists should also be aware that while riding on base, all riders, and all military riders off base, are required to wear a helmet meeting Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 218, eye protection meeting ANSI Z87.1 standard, sturdy over-the-ankle footwear, long-sleeved shirt or jacket, long trousers, and full-fingered gloves or mittens made from leather or other abrasion-resistant material.

“When driving I urge you to see more than the motorcycle,” Tripp said.  “See the person under the helmet, who could be your friend, neighbor, or relative.

“As a rider I urge you to simply be responsible,” Tripp added.  “Don't put yourself in a situation you may not walk away from.”

                                                             - USTRANSCOM -

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