FORT RUCKER, Ala. (July 11, 2013) -- There can never be enough emphasis on safety, especially when it comes to sharing the road with motorcyclists.
That's why Staff Sgt. Shane Cook, Headquarters Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 223rd Aviation Regiment, made sure that he offered his Soldiers and leaders an opportunity to take part in the unit's quarterly Motorcycle Mentor Ride June 28, but this time, decided to focus more on the safety aspect of motorcycle riding.
"This time, we decided to add a safety course before we do the actual ride," said Cook. "We decided to take our mentors and put together a skills course prior to the ride so that we can look at our riders and have the mentors watch and see where our bad and good habits are."
Prizes were brought and awarded to the best riders throughout the course.
Before the riders even got on their bikes, Cook, who is also one of the battalion's motorcycle mentors, started with a safety briefing and question-and-answer portion to make sure people were knowledgeable about the vehicles they were riding.
The riders were taken on a quick walkthrough of the course on foot before taking to their bikes, and were shown a demonstration of the entire course by one of their own.
Some of the skills they practiced included quick stops, swerving, collision avoidance and lane changing.
"If you're not comfortable on your ride doing something like these (basic skills), then how are you going to be comfortable when you get out there on the road?" Cook asked of his riders. "That's why we have to practice things like this, so that we'll be ready."
Staff Sgt. Jonathan Wojciehowski, HHC, 1st Bn., 223rd Avn. Regt., was among the riders and said there is nothing more relaxing than a motorcycle ride with his friends after a hard day of work, but he believes safety is key when it comes to riding.
"I think motorcycle safety is a huge deal," he said. "A lot of times I feel like we (the riders) are our own downfall. The more (motorcycle riders) are unsafe, the more people are going to get into accidents and things like (motorcycle safety courses) become mandatory."
It can be dangerous enough riding a motorcycle alone and that's why Cook said that it's important to have these safety courses.
The mentors discussed group-riding techniques and what each rider has to be aware of in order to participate safely. Cook said one of the key points is that people riding must always remain aware of the riders around them, especially the lead and trail riders.
The lead and trail riders control the movement of the entire group of riders. For example, when changing lanes, the lead rider must first signal the lane change, and before any riders move over, the trail rider must first change lanes before the rest of the group. This is to make sure that there are no cars between the front and back of the group.
Cook, who's been riding motorcycles for more than 30 years, arrived at Fort Rucker in January 2011 and has been conducting the motorcycle mentorship ride every quarter since. He said that his reasons for doing it extend beyond his duty as a Soldier. Much of it is due to personal experience and responsibility.
"About two or three years ago, I was in a curve and I hit a deer and spun off into a guard rail," he said. "I broke my left leg and my right collar bone, and from that (accident) I decided that it was important for riders to be safe," adding that although the accident was unavoidable, his experience allowed him to avoid injuries far worse than what he sustained.
Cook hopes to reduce the amount of accidents, injuries and, hopefully, fatalities that occur due to inexperienced riding.
"I look at the (preliminary loss reports) every day and I realize that people are dying on motorcycles because they're making stupid mistakes," he said. "The good news, though, is we're down 50 percent from last year. The idea is to continue to promote motorcycle safety within our battalion, and at the same time, spread that (idea) throughout the entire brigade."
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