Gear, course preps riders for safe trip on highway to danger zone

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Motorcycle safety begins with protective equipment and the motorcycle safety course, both of which are required for all Vandenberg riders. (Courtesy image/30th Space Communications Squadron)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Motorcycle safety begins with protective equipment and the motorcycle safety course, both of which are required for all Vandenberg riders. (Courtesy image/30th Space Communications Squadron)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- It was sunny and 70 degrees as Capt. Joshua McKean, a unit security manager for the 2nd Range Operations Squadron here, glided toward Harris Grade Road on his sports bike. Dirt, gravel and danger lay just a few yards ahead.

As he made a right turn onto Harris Grade Road from Highway 135, he accelerated away from the turn and his rear tire spun on the dirt in the road from a nearby field. Captain McKean went down immediately. He slid on his jeans about fifty-feet, while his motorcycle tumbled into a ditch.

Safety gear and the motorcycle safety course may have saved Captain McKean's life. He slid on his right arm across the pavement and remained lying in the middle of Howard Grave Road, particularly thankful for his jacket and helmet.

"My helmet was untouched, but I was still glad to have it, since I was almost hit by the exhaust pipe as it snapped off my bike during the accident and flew into the air," he said.

The bright blue armored textiled jacket with built-in reflective material, armored leather gloves and a full face helmet saved him from being mangled by the turf.

"The bright blue color of my jacket also added to my visibility as I sat in the middle of the road after the accident," he said. "There were at least three cars in the vicinity and being hit by one of them would have been worse than the accident itself."

Even while sustaining injuries, Captain McKean credits his safety gear to lessened pain.

"While I did not escape unscathed, it is a fact that I would have sustained far greater injuries without my safety gear," he said.

Proper safety gear played a major role in minimizing injury but it also would have been worse without training.

"Everyone who rides a motorcycle crashes eventually," Captain McKean said.

Motorcycle safety class instructors teach riders proper riding procedures to try to avoid crashes, or what bikers call laying the bike down.

"I learned some safety avoidance techniques there that I would never been prepared for on the highway," said Gregory Danet, 30th Space Wing chief of weapons safety and graduate of the motorcycle safety course.

The motorcycle safety course brings common issues to the forefront of their teaching to better prepare bikers for certain circumstances.

"It gives you the hints that you need to look for," Mr. Danet said. "The class teaches bikers to wear bright or reflective gear. Now it's not a law to wear it off base but it is the safe thing to do."

New and experienced riders benefit from the knowledge gained through the motorcycle safety course.

All Airmen are required to take a motorcycle safety course in order to ride a motorcycle on or off base.

"The motorcycle safety course helped me concentrate on riding instead of other distractions, such as oncoming traffic and other motorists," Mr. Danet said. "Remember, you might be a good rider but it's the other people you got to worry about."

For more information on the motorcycle safety course, call the ground safety office at 606-2300.