JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —
Motorcyclists are all but safe on roadways, more exposed than their four-wheeled counterparts, but there are a number of measures they can take to become as protected as possible.
For starters, having on the right gear improves motorcyclists' survival odds in worst-case scenarios.
"High-impact safety visors, breathable riding jackets and long-sleeve shirts, long pants, gloves, durable footwear covering the ankles and a helmet that is at least U.S. Department of Transportation-approved are what every rider should wear," Marvin Joyce, 502nd Air Base Wing safety and occupational health specialist, said.
At night, riders who wear reflective vests and clothing that contrast their motorcycle's color can increase their chance of being seen.
Before hitting the road, riders should also consider the occasion.
"If you're buying a motorcycle, especially for the first time, take time to educate yourself," Joyce said. "Know how often you plan to ride, how far you plan to ride and what kind of terrain you'll be riding on."
A rule of thumb is the longer the distance, the bigger the engine should be, but "talk to other riders, research the manufacturers, take a motorcycle safety course and go on several test drives before purchasing one."
While on the road, obeying speed limits and traffic signs applies to all, but motorcyclists must possess a heightened awareness since they are more likely to lose control or be overlooked by other drivers.
"Stay out of a vehicle's blind spots, watch your following distance, give yourself extra room to maneuver and drive within your skill level," Joyce said. "Expect the unexpected, (such as) vehicles crossing into your lane or turning in front of you without signaling, debris falling off trucks and sudden stops.
"More than 8 million people visit the San Antonio area each year and many are not familiar with its surroundings," he added. "They're not thinking about you (on the road), so watch out for them."
The key is to drive defensively, but not aggressively.
"If someone cuts you off or exhibits other poor driving behaviors, don't engage with them," Tech Sgt. Travis Yates, 502nd ABW Safety Office NCO in charge of ground safety, said. "Road rage can make you lose focus and awareness, which can lead to more danger."
According to Air Force Instruction 91-207, motorcyclists on Air Education and Training Command locations must wear a DOT-approved helmet; eye protection; protective clothing that includes full-fingered gloves or mittens; and sturdy, over-the-ankle footwear.
The AFI, which was updated last September, no longer requires riders to wear personal protective equipment that incorporates fluorescent colors and retro-reflective material, but it's still encouraged.
In the past year, eight vehicle accidents occurred in AETC; four of them were on motorcycles, all off duty, Joyce said.