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United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: Military Rider 2013

May 01, 2012

The Defense Department marks the start of prime motorcycle riding weather by designating each May as Motorcycle Safety Month. This special report highlights DOD and service-related efforts to enhance the safety and overall riding experience for service members and veterans through training, mentorship and education.

Out of Options

C Company, Task Force Marshall, 171st Brigade
Fort Jackson, S.C.

The weather in South Carolina is often unpredictable. I found that out firsthand one summer evening as I left work with clear skies showing only to get caught in a gullywasher a few miles down the road. That wouldn't have been a problem had I been driving a car. On my motorcycle, however, it nearly cost me my life.

It was dark, and the skies didn't show any signs of inclement weather as I traveled along Leesburg Road, followed by McCords Ferry Road, on my 1994 Honda VFR 750. But as I turned onto Screaming Eagle Road, I rode into pouring rain. I soon found myself behind a utility tractor-trailer hauling a cherry picker, which began kicking up a great deal of water off the road that impeded my field of view. In an attempt to create additional space between the trailer and myself, I started backing away. Suddenly, my rear tire hydroplaned when I rode through a shallow puddle. I instantly applied light pressure to the front and rear brakes — careful to not lock up the rear tire in an attempt to prevent it from sliding. Had I been forced to release the rear brake early, it could have caused the motorcycle to flip.

Shortly after floating the brakes, I felt the tires regain traction. Then I hit yet another water puddle, causing the rear tire to sway to the right before quickly swinging back to the left. I instinctively scanned the oncoming traffic as the motorcycle drifted back to the right. I thought, "Jorge, the bike is going down. It's either your life or the bike."

With no other options, I pushed myself off the motorcycle with both hands and feet, like a paratrooper leaping out of a plane. I slid about 60 feet down the road, coming to rest on the shoulder. My motorcycle barreled another 100-150 feet down the road, ending up on the opposite side in the tree line.

While some Soldiers may not see the need to wear personal protective equipment, mine likely saved my life. I was wearing my duty uniform, a helmet, reflective vest and gloves. In the midst of the heavy downpour, the gear was of great use.

Despite riding a motorcycle for about a year, I can honestly say the tutelage of my instructor for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Basic and Experienced Rider courses was of great help. The fundamentals of safe motorcycle riding may have been the difference between survival and death. I now own a 2001 Honda VFR 800 and continue to ride safely without being complacent.

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