Motorcycle safety: It's on you!

  • Published
  • By Ed Adams
  • AFDW Dir. of Safety
One might argue that motorcycles are safer to operate on the roadway than a four-wheeled vehicle. This may be true . . . until an accident occurs.
Motorcycle operators may have a greater advantage of avoiding an accident because they can execute an evasive maneuver with their smaller vehicle and avoid an accident altogether. Maybe for a very few skilled motorcycle riders, that's not always the case. Most of the time even the best riders can't escape a mishap. And, if an evasive maneuver is not enough to get the motorcycle operator out of harm's way, and an accident does occur, the operator doesn't have the added protection of being buckled (seatbelt) into a surrounding four-wheeled vehicle. Consequently, the resulting injuries are often worse, including a higher probability of death.

Besides being a cautious and defensive driver, how can a motorcycle rider best increase the chances of avoiding serious or even fatal injuries? He can do so by wearing full gear rather than fool's gear. This gear is required protective equipment/clothing for both driver and passenger. From head to toe, protective gear can save a life or limb. Without the right equipment, a minor motorcycle accident can still result in a fatality. With the right gear on, it may ensure a minor mishap incurs minor injuries and may prevent a major mishap from resulting in severe injury or death.

· Helmets must be worn by all who operate or ride as a passenger on a motorcycle on a military installation and by military members whether on or off installation.
· As a minimum, helmets must meet standards set forth by the Department of Transportation (DOT), Snell Memorial Foundation or the American National Standards Institute.
· Helmets must be properly worn and fastened.
· Novelty helmets are for those who do not value their lives. Novelty helmets also do not meet the proper standards of protection, nor do they become legal by simply affixing a DOT decal on them.
· Operators and passengers are encouraged to affix reflective material to their helmets to increase their visibility at night and during inclement weather.

Eye Protection
· Operators and passengers must wear impact resistant goggles or a full-face shield attached to their helmet.
· The only exception to the full-face shield requirement is if the motorcycle is equipped with a windshield that is equal in height to, or above, the top of the helmet of the properly upright-seated operator.

Upper Garment
· Full gear includes a long sleeved shirt and/or jacket.
· Operators and passengers' outer upper garment must be a brightly colored or contrasting vest or jacket in the daytime and nighttime must be reflective.
· Bright and reflective garments significantly increase operators and passengers chances of being seen by other drivers who are not looking for a motorcycle approaching them.

· Full-fingered motorcycle gloves or mittens offer protection and can increase the operator's comfort.
· Gloves or mittens should be carefully selected to ensure they offer proper grip characteristics rather than the risk of slippage.

Long Trousers
· Long trousers must be worn to protect the legs from burns and possible road rash.
· Wearing leather boots or over-the-ankle shoes can properly protect the feet.

Recommended Don'ts
· Don't wear shorts!
· Don't wear sandals or flip flops. Both can interfere with the proper operation of the motorcycle and could result in a mishap and unnecessary injuries.
· Don't have more passengers than the motorcycle is designed for, i.e., motorcycles are designed for two riders (operator and one passenger).

In addition to wearing the abovementioned full gear, all motorcycle operators must possess:
· A proper motorcycle license.
· Proof of insurance.
· Completed motorcycle safety foundation (MSF) training.

Like four-wheeled vehicles, motorcycles are not dangerous, people are! Whether used for leisure or business, daily or occasionally, drive smartly, drive safely, remain vigilant of others and arrive alive. Reckless driving, driving and drinking and showboating on a motorcycle usually end with negative results.
Additionally, all military members are required to be thoroughly familiar with AFI 91-207, The US Air Force Traffic Safety Program, and AFI 31-204, Air Force Motor Vehicle Traffic Supervision.
It's your responsibility to adhere to the proper procedures and protocols when operating a motorcycle. Motorcycle safety - it's on you!