VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
California offers arguably some of the best motorcycle riding available, partly due to the geographic variety that the state offers, and partly because of the mild weather.
Riding, for many, is a form of freedom that can only be attained on the open road. The numerous risks associated with riding can be greatly mitigated with some strategy and forethought.
“The biggest trends in motorcycle accidents are other vehicles failing to yield to a rider and right-of-way turns,” said Leo Garza, Lompoc Police Department traffic supervisor. “People just don’t see motorcyclists. Some of the ways to avoid that as a rider is to ride in the fast lane and scan constantly. Keep trying to predict what the cars are going to do. That can get difficult if the driver is texting or on the phone, sometimes you just need to give yourself a lot of distance.”
Riding is a seasonal activity for many, and even an avid rider would be hard pressed to ride as many miles as they can comfortably drive a car.
“The average rider in America rides approximately 2,000 miles a year,” said Bill Stark, 30th Space Wing chief of pad safety. “That is quite a small percentage of miles that are put on the road by bikes. Only two percent of registered drivers on the road are motorcyclists, so in the aquarium of life we are the guppies. With our traffic exposure one-fifth that of cars, it makes us a true minority on the highways and byways.”
Maintaining and refreshing riding skills is often an easy way to regain lost skills after months without riding.
“Riding is a perishable skill, and the more you ride the better you get,” said Garza. “People sometimes have the mentality that just because they used to ride a few years ago they can hop on a bike and still be just as good as they were. Take a refresher course, it doesn’t hurt. It will just make you that much better. Knowing your limits can save your life and limbs.”
With a rider base, in the Air Force, hovering around 12 percent, motorcycle casualties still make up one of the largest categories for off-duty deaths.
“In six of the last ten years, Air Force motorcyclists have been killed at a higher rate than any other off-duty category,” said Stark. “This small percentage of riders has more fatalities than cars. However, the trend has been declining over the last two decades. So far we have had zero fatalities for 2017, let’s keep that trend going.”