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Safety officials urge members to follow motorcycle regulations

| Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs | July 27, 2016

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas — A Joint Base San Antonio safety official says service members who ride motorcycles need to follow military regulations and state traffic laws to keep themselves and others safe on the road.

Marvin Joyce, 502nd Air Base Wing Safety Office occupational health and safety specialist at JBSA-Randolph, said active-duty service members need to adhere to Air Force Instruction 91-207 that require motorcycle riders to take a basic riding course and wear personal protective equipment.

The instruction, which is posted on the Air Force Portal, requires an active-duty service member take the Basic Rider Course and wear Personal Protective Equipment while operating a motorcycle, whether they are on or off-duty. PPE includes a helmet, a long-sleeved shirt or jacket, gloves, trousers, eye protection and footwear.

Even though Texas law does not require a rider to use a helmet, Joyce said service members must wear one while operating a bike, whether on or off-duty, to comply with the instruction.

“Even if you are an experienced rider, you still have to follow the rules,” Joyce said. “The rules are there for a reason. It’s there to make sure no one gets injured.”

Joyce said wearing a helmet and PPE gear are the only things that can protect a motorcycle rider in an accident, because a motorcycle lacks the protection of an enclosed vehicle.

In a report done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2015, motorcycle riders were 26 more times likely to die in an accident than those in a vehicle. Wearing a helmet has been found 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths and 67 percent effective in protecting riders from brain injuries, according to the NHTSA.

A helmet with a face shield can help protect riders from flying debris, including rocks, bugs and rain.

Joyce said wearing a helmet with a face shield protected him during a bike ride last year.

“I was riding and a truck kicked up a rock, came over the windshield and hit my face shield,” Joyce said. “The rock cracked my face shield, but it protected my face.”

Wearing shorts, short-sleeved shirts and open-toed footwear, including flip flops, leave the skin of a rider unprotected in an accident, Joyce said. PPE clothing can protect the body, skin and feet of riders in an accident, including road rash.

Other safety procedures Joyce said motorcycle riders should follow, which are listed in an article by Discovery News, include:
• Leaving enough space. Motorcycle riders should leave enough space between them and the vehicle in front of them, just in case they need to step on the brakes at a moment’s notice.

“You want to make sure you give yourself enough time to stop if there’s an emergency,” Joyce said.

If a rider is unable to brake and stop in time to hit a vehicle, they should look at going onto the side of the road, or the shoulder, to avoid an accident.

Before riding on a motorcycle, riders should practice emergency braking and stopping in a safe setting, such as a parking lot, so they know how much space they will need to brake and stop completely.
• Avoiding distractions. Riders need to stay focused on the road and their surroundings. Avoid using cell phones, iPods, headphones and setting the GPS while operating a motorcycle.

According to Discovery News, the reaction time of a motorcycle rider who is distracted is lessened by several seconds, putting them at a higher risk of being involved in an accident.

• Looking twice. More than 40 percent of all accidents involving a motorcycle and a vehicle occur when the vehicle is attempting to make a left-hand turn. These type of crashes occur when the motorcycle is going through an intersection, trying to pass a vehicle, or trying to overtake a vehicle.

Riders should always look twice, ride defensively and operate a motorcycle safely and responsibly around vehicles.
“It really comes down to motorcycle rider awareness,” Joyce said. “Even if the biker is not at fault, he is going to come out at the worst end of it.”

• Educate your passengers. Motorcycle drivers should go over with their passenger on what they should do and not do when they are riding a motorcycle to make it a safer ride for both of them.

Joyce said passengers should not talk except when it’s an emergency so as to not distract the rider operating the motorcycle. Passengers should also wear protective clothing and gear, including a long-sleeved shirt or jacket, gloves, trousers, eye protection and footwear.

When riding on a bike, Joyce said passengers should stay in line with the motorcycle operator and lean forward. Any shifting of the passenger’s weight could affect the handling and control of a motorcycle.

• Watch the weather. Before going out on a ride, check the weather forecast. Any rain, snow or ice on the road are not ideal conditions for riding a motorcycle.

Riding a motorcycle in the rain is riskier than a vehicle because a motorcycle has only two wheels, giving it half the traction of a vehicle. Also, without windshield wipers, a motorcycle rider’s visibility is limited in bad weather.

After a rain storm, riders should wait for the road surface to clear off before getting on a motorcycle. Always be cautious, go slow and leave plenty of space to stop on the road riding after a rain event. If the weather starts getting worse, a rider should stop and wait it out.

Before obtaining a motorcycle license in Texas, riders must take a motorcycle safety course approved by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Active-duty service members can satisfy the state requirement for getting a license by taking the Basic Rider Course at JBSA-Lackland Medina Annex. The course teaches the basics of motorcycle riding, including traffic safety laws, learning the controls of a motorcycle, proper motorcycle maintenance, how to avoid unsafe situations on the road and responding to emergency situations.

“Taking a motorcycle safety course prepares you to hit the road safely and with more confidence,” Joyce said.

Once an individual or service member has completed a motorcycle safety course, they must go to a Texas Department of Public Safety driver’s license office to show a certificate of course completion to obtain their motorcycle license.

There are also advanced rider courses JBSA members can take to hone and improve their riding skills.

Service members and Department of Defense CAC cardholders can register free of charge to take the basic rider and advanced courses at https://jbsaleadershippathway.gosignmeup.com.

Motorcycle riders at all JBSA locations must attend an annual safety briefing to stay current on local safety conditions and procedures. Also, each JBSA unit with riders has a motorcycle safety representative they can go to for mentoring and safety advice.

Service members who are new to a JBSA location meet with their unit commander or motorcycle representative to find out what safety responsibilities they must adhere to when they are on a bike.