It'll Never Happen to Me
RETIRED MASTER SGT. MARTIN G. BARRETT
648th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade
Georgia Army National Guard
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.
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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/.