Training, Instincts, & Quick Reflexes Save Keesler Motorcyclist from Injury

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Tristan Duff
  • 81st Training Support Squadron
I'm sitting here typing this article today, in good health, because motorcycle training saved my life recently.

While I was on the way back to base July 11, a drunk driver rear ended me on my new motorcycle.

Everyone considers the possibility of encountering drunk drivers after midnight on a weekend, but rarely do we expect to see one at 7:30 a.m. in commuter traffic on a Friday. I was sitting at the red light near the lighthouse, with a Honda Accord in front of me. The Accord managed to slam on his brakes at the last second, but as soon as I saw the truck behind me in my mirrors, I knew the it was going to hit me.

The truck was going more than 50 miles per hour before he hit the brakes, and was still doing close to 25 when he made contact. Without consciously thinking about it, I clamped down on the front brake, hit the engine kill switch and began jumping off my bike. When the vehicle contacted my rear fender, I was partially airborne.

The bike and I traveled approximately ten feet forward, but I managed to clear the accident and land on my feet to the right of the downed motorcycle.

I still don't remember whether I walked around the motorcycle or jumped over it after this, but I quickly moved to check on the driver of the truck that had hit me. Thankfully, no one was injured; there was only a minor dent in the rear bumper of the car in front of me, and the truck came out almost untouched. My motorcycle, however, wasn't so lucky. Police quickly arrived and the driver of the truck failed the field sobriety test within the first second, eventually leaving the scene in a new set of shiny bracelets.

The sad reality of motorcycle riding is that while our machines are in and of themselves safe and easy to operate, the drivers we interact with every day make the experience quite dangerous.

Riders are taught to expect every vehicle they encounter will do something wrong: that lady about to turn in front of you isn't going to see you, that truck is going to run the red light, and the driver in the next lane over isn't going to check his blind spot before he merges because he's too busy texting someone. Thus, the responsibility is on our shoulders to be alert and responsive for them.

Motorcycle rider courses are geared towards building the core skills, situational awareness and instincts that will allow a rider to react to these problems instinctively.

While the random passerby may simply see a bunch of orange and green cones on the practice track, or think the rider in front of them weaving back and forth in his lane is playing around, these instincts are something we build upon and reinforce every day we ride. This principle is why the Air Force assigns mentors to new riders, encourages group activities and ensures that rider training is an ongoing requirement.

Risks can never be entirely prevented, but proper training can mean the difference between lamenting a damaged motorcycle from the comfort of your office or from a hospital bed.