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Preparing for a safer ride

(U.S. Air Force graphic, photo/Michael Means)

(U.S. Air Force graphic, photo/Michael Means)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Airmen are the Air Force's most valuable resource, and this year during the Critical Days of Summer campaign, too many lives have been lost to motorcycle mishaps.

According to Luis Harris, 21st Space Wing safety office, within the first 11 weeks of the CDS campaign, there were 13 fatalities, seven of those caused by motorcycle mishaps. Each of the members, he said, was male, in his 20s, and lost control of the bike.

The CDS campaign runs from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend, when Airmen and their families are more likely to travel and participate in higher risk sports and activities.

Even though the CDS campaign is coming to a close, motorcycle safety is a year round issue. Riders and drivers should be aware of the potential for a mishap 365 days a year and learn how they can mitigate the risk.

In accordance with Air Force Instruction 91-207, all active duty motorcycle riders are required to take a training course before riding on or off an installation. Harris said training courses for beginning and experienced riders are contracted off base, but are paid by the Air Force for Airmen.

In addition to a training course, all active duty members are required to wear personal protective equipment. "This includes long pants, over-the-ankle boots, gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, and a brightly colored outer garment that is reflective at night," Harris said.

If a rider is in an accident, and it is determined he was not wearing the proper PPE, his benefits could be adversely affected. There could also be additional administrative or other action as determined by his commander.

Once riders are on the road, there is more they can do to keep themselves safe. "Be aware of your surroundings. Don't expect other vehicle operators to know you're there. Always expect them not to see you because a lot of times they don't," he said.

Riders should also make sure to not outride their skill level, and ride at a safe speed. Harris encouraged young riders to join a mentorship program where they can ride with more experienced riders. Riders should also always ride with a wingman.

Lt. Col. Paul Tombarge, 21st Operations Group deputy commander, has years of experience on the seat of a motorcycle. He said he sees new riders make two big mistakes when they first start. First, is riding beyond their limits. "Beginners often buy a bike that is too heavy or too powerful. They can get caught up in the moment and easily lose control. Riders really need to learn the capabilities of their machine as well as their own riding capabilities," he said.

The second mistake Tombarge sees young riders make is not reading the road. "They need to understand the road conditions, what hazards might be present, and what other drivers are doing around them," he said. "In essence, you need to think ahead and have a tactical response plan for whatever might come up."

Vehicle drivers also play an important role in keeping motorcyclists safe, Harris said. Often, drivers don't see riders because they aren't looking. Riders wear bright colored vests to help increase their visibility, but drivers need to make a conscious effort to look for those riders.

Harris reminded Airmen that riders will be on the road as long as there is nice weather, and in Colorado Springs, riding weather can happen sporadically throughout the year.

For more information about motorcycle safety training classes, contact the safety office at 556-4392.

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