Open roads: Shaw motorcycle safety

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Motorcycles are a hobby to some, and a lifestyle to others. They can offer a new way of experiencing the road, but they can also change a life in a matter of moments.

Although the dangers of falling, crashing or even dying are real, preventative measures can be taken by motorcyclists to invest in the safety of everyone on the road such as wearing proper protective equipment, ensuring proper function of the bike and driving defensively.

In 2014, motorcyclist fatalities occurred 27 times more frequently than other vehicle deaths according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Motorcycles offer less protection, visibility and stability than other vehicles. These factors pose a risk to both the rider and other drivers.

Military bikers are required to wear gloves, shoes with ankle support, long sleeves, pants and DOT-approved helmets, on- and off-base. It is also highly recommended they wear reflective vests.

“If you get hit by a car, your helmet could save your life,” said Staff Sgt. Kurtis Vandevender, 20th Fighter Wing occupational safety technician and motorcycle safety representative.

In 2013, approximately 1,630 lives were saved by motorcycle helmets in the U.S., according to the DOT. Approximately 715 other lives could have been saved had the motorcyclists worn helmets.

Motorcycle safety starts with proper equipment, but it does not end there.
Before hopping on the bike, riders should do a pre-check to ensure a smooth ride.

Some items to check beforehand include:
— Operational protective gear
— Weather conditions and weather gear if needed
— Tire pressure and tread
— Fluid levels
— Functioning lights

Even with proper gear and a functional bike, riders can be a hazard if they lack the proper skillset.

Airmen are required to identify themselves as motorcycle riders to their motorcycle safety representative and take basic and advanced rider’s courses as well as complete refresher trainings, all offered by their unit safety offices.

“(Riding) is not like picking up a bicycle,” said Staff Sgt. Tristan Streetman, 20th FW Occupational Safety apprentice. “I know a lot of people think it is because it has two wheels, but it’s also two wheels with several hundred horsepower underneath you. It is very important you keep up your skills.”

To keep skills sharp, Streetman recommends repeating the courses as needed. As with any driving, defensive driving techniques such as scanning mirrors and maintaining situational awareness of weather, road conditions and other drivers is recommended to help prevent accidents.

Streetman said it is even more important for motorcycle riders to be situationally aware than any other vehicle operators due to their small size and possibility of going unnoticed.

Focusing on safety can lower deadly statistics concerning motorcycles. From the driveway to the highway, motorcyclists should take precautions to ensure the safety of themselves and people they share the road with.