Motorcycle safety: everyone's job

Members of Team V practice riding drills during a motorcycle riding course on base, April 04, 2014 Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Vandenberg offers motorcyclists training courses to maintain rider’s awareness and all-around safe riding habits. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shane Phipps/Released)

Members of Team V practice riding drills during a motorcycle riding course on base, April 04, 2014 Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Vandenberg offers motorcyclists training courses to maintain rider’s awareness and all-around safe riding habits. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shane Phipps/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The annual pre-season motorcycle briefing took place in the base theater recently, with guest speaker, Jake Zemke, American Motorcyclist Association professional road racer.

This briefing was part of the mandatory training for motorcyclists on base and served as a unique way to get people in a safe riding mindset.

"At Vandenberg we focus on encouraging riders to adopt a continuous skills development philosophy," said Bill Stark, 30th Space Wing chief of pad safety. "We also build our pre-season briefings around something fun or entertaining. This year we had Jake Zemke address our riders. Bottom-line though, we want all our riders to be able to handle the risks of motorcycling and be safe on the road."

The importance of good protective gear can never be overrated, and many motorcyclists are alive today because they decided to wear a helmet.

"I have gone through most of my career injury free," said Zemke. "I have always tried to put myself in the best safety equipment possible - helmet, leathers, boots and gloves. Those types of things help keep me safe."

Even though the motorcycle season extends year round at Vandenberg, it is slower during the winter months.

"Riding skills are perishable," said Stark. "It's not uncommon for riders emerging from the winter hiatus to find they need to get mentally back into the game and tune up their motorcycling competencies - especially those critical braking, swerving and cornering skills."

In the jungle of traffic, the motorcyclist is the smallest and frailest creature and sometimes it doesn't matter what kind of safety equipment they have when dealing with cars.

"You could be a 300 pound bruiser on a chopper and a little old lady in her Ford Fiesta could take you out in an instant," said Stark.

It isn't just the motorcyclist's job to be safe however; many of the inherent dangers to riding a motorcycle are due to distracted drivers.

"The risks are greater now than they have ever been, simply because now we have far more distracted riders than we did in the past," said Stark. "There has been an explosion of handheld devices that people are addicted to using. We have people that are operating cellphones all the time, we have moms, we have teenagers, we have truck drivers, everybody is doing it."

Despite the hazards of riding, VAFB has a superb climate and the only things needed to enjoy it are a bike, the right gear and the right training.

"Continue to enjoy riding, but make sure you do it the right way," said Zemke. "Have the proper safety equipment, maintain your bike properly and take the safety courses that are required through the Air Force."


For more information, contact the base safety office at 805-605-7233.