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Ride safe, stay alive

A Harley owner herself, Col. Nina Armagno, 21st Operations Group commander, speaks to the 80 motorcyclists who participated in Motorcycle Safety Day June 2, 2011, on Peterson AFB. Just prior to the group leaving on a 90-mile Poker Run that took riders to the Air Force installations in the Colorado Springs area, Colonel Armagno stressed important safety points and inherent dangers to be found in traffic in the Pikes Peak region. The group ended their ride at the Peterson AFB Club, where they had burger cookout. All summer, the 21st Space Wing Safety Office will host special events to highlight the 101 Critical Days of Summer safety campaign. (U.S. Air Force photo/Rob Bussard)

A Harley owner herself, Col. Nina Armagno, 21st Operations Group commander, speaks to the 80 motorcyclists who participated in Motorcycle Safety Day June 2, 2011, on Peterson AFB. Just prior to the group leaving on a 90-mile Poker Run that took riders to the Air Force installations in the Colorado Springs area, Colonel Armagno stressed important safety points and inherent dangers to be found in traffic in the Pikes Peak region. The group ended their ride at the Peterson AFB Club, where they had burger cookout. All summer, the 21st Space Wing Safety Office will host special events to highlight the 101 Critical Days of Summer safety campaign. (U.S. Air Force photo/Rob Bussard)

Airman 1st Class William Fields attempts to maneuver his simulated motorcycle in heavy city traffic while Dave Tolbert of the Motorcycle Training Academy observes. The Honda SMARTrainer is a traffic simulator specifically designed to give riders a safe bridge between a typical beginning riding course (which often take place in a parking lot) and the real-world scenario of riding in traffic and on public roads. The simulator was part of Motorcycle Safety Day June 2, 2011, on Peterson AFB, hosted by the 21st Space Wing Safety Office. All summer, the safety office will host special events to highlight the 101 Critical Days of Summer safety campaign. (U.S. Air Force photo/Rob Bussard)

Airman 1st Class William Fields attempts to maneuver his simulated motorcycle in heavy city traffic while Dave Tolbert of the Motorcycle Training Academy observes. The Honda SMARTrainer is a traffic simulator specifically designed to give riders a safe bridge between a typical beginning riding course (which often take place in a parking lot) and the real-world scenario of riding in traffic and on public roads. The simulator was part of Motorcycle Safety Day June 2, 2011, on Peterson AFB, hosted by the 21st Space Wing Safety Office. All summer, the safety office will host special events to highlight the 101 Critical Days of Summer safety campaign. (U.S. Air Force photo/Rob Bussard)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- More than 80 Airmen and civilians from the 21st Space Wing donned their leather jackets, pants, boots and safety gear and hit the highway June 2 for a 90-mile motorcycle ride that hit all the Air Force installations in the Colorado Springs area.

The ride was part of Motorcycle Safety Day, hosted by the 21st Space Wing Safety Office.

Col. Nina Armagno, 21st Operations Group commander, kick started the event with a safety message and then joined the caravan, which left from Peterson AFB and took riders to Schriever AFB, the U.S. Air Force Academy and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station.

Jim Carson, Colorado Springs police officer and police motorcycle instructor, gave riders safety tips on how to ride with a large group. He urged riders, who often invest quite a bit of money into their motorcycles and their riding gear, to spend some money on training.

"There are videos and there are places for advanced training," he said. "As far as statistics, you don't want to be one."

Motorcycle Safety Day is just one of many activities planned for this summer's 101 Critical Days of Summer safety campaign, which runs now to Labor Day weekend. Since 1967, Air Force leaders have put extra emphasis on safety during the summer months in an effort to reduce mishaps.

This summer Air Force leaders are putting particular focus on motorcycle safety. According to the Air Force Safety Center, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., motorcycle fatalities have risen 150 percent from January to March 2011, compared to the same period last year. The safety reports indicated that all incidents had two common causal factors: the absence of automobile involvement and the rider losing control of his motorcycle.

"These losses are unacceptable for our Air Force," said Gen. Philip Breedlove, Vice Chief of Staff, in a May 2011 memorandum to Airmen.

Motorcycle safety is always a challenge, said Darron Haughn, 21st Space Wing Safety Office flight safety manager. Riding motorcycles is exhilarating, but also has a higher level of inherent risk. Even if a motorcycle rider follows all the rules, motorists often have trouble seeing motorcycles and reacting in time. In Colorado, 3 percent of all registered vehicles are motorcycles, but they account for 18 percent of traffic fatalities, he said.

"We have some of the most responsible riders that I've seen in the Air Force," Mr. Haughn said. "Our riders are very professional, wearing all the required gear and driving in control and doing their part. We as automobile drivers, we need to do our part to make sure we are watching for the motorcycle riders because they are at an unfair advantage when it comes to sharing the road."

In his summer safety message to the wing, Col. Stephen N. Whiting, 21st Space Wing commander, reminded Airmen that safety is their responsibility.

"We can beat the high risk summer period by making smart choices," he said. "For example, avoid cell phone use while driving, wear seatbelts, don proper motorcycle and high-risk activity PPE, and be a Wingman."

Motorcycle Safety

Be visible. Use reflective strips or decals on clothing and motorcycles. Flash the brake light when slowing down and before stopping.

Dress for safety. Wear a quality helmet and eye protection. Wear bright clothing and a light-colored helmet. Wear leather or other synthetic, protective clothing. Choose long sleeves and pants, over-the ankle boots and gloves.

Know the bike and how to use it. Develop riding techniques before going into heavy traffic. Know how to handle the bike in conditions such as wet or sandy roads, high winds and uneven surfaces. And, master the controls such as shifting, braking and turning.

Give yourself space. People driving cars often don't see motorcycles and if they do, they cannot properly judge speed.
  • Anyone who would like to volunteer to lead any of the summer safety activities, including dressing up like Vince and Larry, helping with the drunken goggle games or any of the safety days, call Tech. Sgt. Christopher Blasengame at 556-7091.
(The Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs office contributed to this article.)

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