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.


It'll Never Happen to Me

RETIRED MASTER SGT. MARTIN G. BARRETT
648th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade
Georgia Army National Guard
Columbus, Ga.

I began riding motorcycles at 8 years old when my father bought me a little Honda dirt bike. More than 35 years later, and probably twice as many motorcycles, I still love the freedom and thrill of riding. I have always considered myself a skilled rider; but before I could register my bike on post, I had to complete the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Basic RiderCourse. While I didn't think the course would teach me much or improve my riding skills, I went into it with an open mind. To my surprise, I actually learned something, especially regarding personal protective equipment. That training likely lessened the severity of the accident I thought would never happen to me.

It was early in the morning when I headed out for Fort Stewart, Ga. I was scheduled to start a two-week assignment the next day and wanted to get there early. The ride was going to take about three hours, so I did all the right things before striking out: I inspected my bike, donned the proper PPE and planned my trip with a couple of rest stops along the route. I had only traveled about 65 miles when it happened — an elderly man in a small pickup truck crossed three lanes of traffic, causing me to hit him broadside.

At 55 mph, there wasn't a lot I could do but brace for the impact and hope for the best. My bike struck the pickup just behind the cab. I had decided to try to get airborne in hopes I could loft my body over the bed of truck. I almost made it, but my left foot struck the side of the vehicle, causing my body to flip violently. I hit the ground on the opposite side of the truck and came to an abrupt stop.

I knew I was hurt, but, at that point, I saw that as a good thing. A sheriff's deputy who witnessed the accident later told me he couldn't believe someone could survive that hard of an impact. As I lay on the road, I began to assess my injuries. My left foot was at about a 45-degree angle to my leg. I had shattered the left fibula and broken my left tibia. The surgery to repair my ankle took about five hours, and I spent five days in the hospital. Fortunately, after another surgery and a year of rehab, I was able to ride again. However, I now have an eight-inch titanium plate and eight screws holding my ankle together.

If I hadn't been wearing the proper PPE I learned about in the Basic RiderCourse, things would have turned out a lot differently that morning. The over-the-ankle boots I was wearing helped keep my foot attached to my leg. I was also glad I had spent the extra money to purchase a quality helmet. Even though it shattered on impact, it protected my head when it struck the road. My long pants and a leather riding jacket protected my body from road rash, and my hands were spared by my gloves. While the man driving the truck claimed he never saw me, my high-visibility vest protected me from other drivers that morning. All things considered, I guess I am pretty lucky.

FYI

Proper personal protective equipment can save your life. To learn more, visit the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center's POV/POM Toolbox at https://safety.army.mil/povtoolbox/.


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