Whiteman AFB motorcycle safety

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Team Whiteman, springtime weather is here and I know our motorcycle rider population is looking forward to warmer weather and the lure of the open roads and countryside of Missouri. With that in mind, take time to prepare your equipment and state of mind prior to riding.

Within the past two week, three motorcycle accidents in our Air Force Family have occurred. Two Airmen died and a third is in a coma due to severe head trauma. What do these three losses have in common? All were riding at speeds in excess of 100 mph with initial impact points at the front quarter of another vehicle or fixed object.

More than 63 percent of motorcycle fatalities in the State of Missouri and in the U.S. result from front quarter collisions. More than 50 percent of those fatalities involved riders exceeding the posted speed limit. What this tells me is most of these fatalities can be prevented by the person behind the handlebars: you.

I recently polled a few of our local riders who have a passion for the sport and help train our inexperienced riders throughout the year. I asked them to provide the top three actions rider can take to prepare their bike and the top three dangers of early springtime riding in the State of Missouri.

Prepare your equipment:
1. Thoroughly clean the motorcycle, this allows the rider to get up close and personal with the machine and inspect the little things that get can overlooked.

2. Conduct a pre-ride inspection, or tires, control, lights, oil, chassis and side, or T-CLOCS and preventative maintenance. Tire pressure is the number one reason for tire failure. Many use the pressure that is located on the side walls when they should be using the listed pressure located in their motorcycle owner's manual. Look at all the nuts and bolts to ensure they are snug and are not missing. It is also a good idea to perform an oil and/or transmission fluid change as these fluids will chemically break-down over time.

3. Ensure you are ready. The rider should look at their gear for its serviceability, size and fit. Next, the rider should look at themselves from the outside looking in. Is the individual physically and mentally prepared to accept the risks that come along with riding? Lastly, the rider should allow themselves time and space on the road for a safety margin.

Early springtime riding hazards in Missouri:
1. Road conditions. Be aware of salt, sand, dirt and oil that may have collected in the middle and sides of the roads from snow removal operations especially when going around turns and at intersections.

2. Other drivers. Riders should be aware of other drivers as they are not accustomed to looking for motorcyclists this early in the year. Drive defensively.

3. Wildlife and domesticated animals. Just as we venture out in the nice weather, the wildlife does as well. Be aware of animals in rural or wooded areas especially in the morning hours, dusk and at night.

As a rider both on and off duty, Air Force Instruction 91-207 directs military personnel to wear the following personal protective equipment.
- The vehicle must have a headlight and it must be on at all times.
- The vehicle must have right and left rear-view mirrors.
- Operator and all passengers must wear a helmet that meets, at a minimum, Department of Transportation standards. Reflective material is recommended for helmets.
- Operator and all passengers must wear impact resistance goggles or a full-face shield on their helmet.
- Long sleeve shirt or jacket must be worn.
- Long trousers must be worn.
- Full-fingered motorcycle gloves or mittens must be worn.
- Sturdy footwear must be worn. (No sandals or open-heeled shoes). Over-the-ankle shoes or boots are recommended.
- Outer upper-garment must be brightly colored during the day and reflective if worn at night. (Note: There are no U.S. Air Force uniforms that comply with this requirement, so something must be worn over the uniform, reflective belts are not acceptable).

If you're new to motor cycling, plan to complete the basic rider course hosted by the 509th Bomb Wing in Warrensburg, Mo. This course is offered twice a month, April through October and space is limited to 11 individuals. Contact your unit motorcycle safety representative for details. Also offered is an experienced rider course at the same location with 12 courses offered during the year. The experienced rider course provides the rider skills in the braking and handling of their bikes.

Air Force Global Strike Command has provided funds this year to sponsor a unique opportunity for 509th BW members offering an advanced rider course on a closed track at Rolling Wheels in Kansas City, Mo. There are nine courses offered April through August. This is a fantastic opportunity for our experienced sport bike riders to "push the envelope" in a controlled environment and become more proficient with their high performance machines. The Wing depends on these experienced riders to be mentors to our young Airmen and beginning riders. Each squadron has mentors appointed; contact your unit MSR for details.

As you take that first ride realize you are not invincible, take it slow, slow it down and enjoy the day.

For questions regarding these safety requirements, course offerings and suggestions, contact ground safety shop at (660) 687-7233.