When Risk Rides the Road
October 1, 2012
After I got comfortable -- and a bit cocky about my riding abilities -- I began venturing off base to test my riding skills in traffic. At that time, I hadn't notified my command of my purchase, nor told any of my leadership I was riding the motorcycle on and off base. Also, I had no idea what personal protective equipment was at that time. Months went by and I was still riding and carrying on without being concerned about safety precautions. Sometimes I rode very fast and reckless, while other times I just cautiously cruised the beach and other areas.
One Sunday, I was riding back to the base after cruising all day. I was tired, so I wasn't speeding or riding recklessly. I was on Interstate 5, headed back to the base and exited onto the Pacific Highway. I was in the number one lane with a city bus about 15 feet ahead of me and a Cadillac following me. Suddenly, a white Volkswagen driven by a woman with a cellphone resting on her shoulder started merging into my lane. Unable to accelerate because of the bus in front of me or slow down because of the car behind, I beeped my horn. She didn't hear me, so I moved as far left in the lane as I could. However, she crept closer to me and got so close that her side-view mirror was almost touching my hand. I hit her window and she swerved toward me, pinching me and my bike between the guardrail and her driver-side door.
My left leg was jammed against the guardrail and I could feel my skin burning from the friction. I hit her window again, this time shattering it. She responded by swerving to the right and accelerating away. Now I was in serious trouble. My front tire shook so badly I could barely control my bike. I panicked and down shifted into second gear as I saw the road was about to curve to the right, driving me even harder into the guardrail. I prayed the driver behind me was paying attention because I knew I'd have to get off the bike before it rolled. I hit the throttle, raising the bike's front enough for me to fall onto the freeway before the curve. When the bike came down, it rolled several times and slid along the blacktop for what seemed like forever.
I had on a helmet and gloves and was wearing running shoes, a T-shirt and a warm-up suit. When I finally stopped sliding, I jumped up and began looking at my clothes, which were shredded. In shock, I just stood in the curve, ignoring the stopped traffic and blaring horns. The Volkswagen's driver never stopped.
After the highway patrol arrived at the accident scene, I was taken on base for medical treatment. Fortunately, nothing was broken but my pride; however, I did suffer road rash on my left forearm, left hip, lower left shin and my entire back. The following weeks were very painful as I recovered from my injuries.
I haven't ridden since that accident. I learned how dangerous riding a motorcycle can be even if you're not doing anything crazy. I also learned there is a price to pay for riders who teach themselves rather than getting proper training. The highway is an unforgiving place for the unprepared rider and not everyone gets a second chance. I'm fortunate to be alive and would encourage anyone wanting to ride to attend the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic RiderCourse before buying a bike. After all, if you can afford to invest in a motorcycle, you can afford to invest in the training to ride it safely.
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The author was very open in describing his riding experiences. Having read the story, what would you have done differently as a beginning rider? How would you have handled a distracted driver trying to merge into your lane? Also, what are your thoughts about the difference what you wear makes in an accident? Do you have a story to share of how personal protective equipment helped you? If so, please email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your story may well reach other Soldiers in a future issue of Knowledge.
What does it take to protect you on the highway and keep you squared away with Army riding safety requirements? Go online to https://safety.army.mil/povmotorcyclesafety to dive into a rich resource of valuable, life-saving information.