Wheelie fun -- motorcycle course teaches Airmen safety techniques

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Be it the rise of gas prices or the fun factor of straddling the seat of a motorcycle, some Airmen are thinking about taking to the streets of Arizona on a motorcycle.

Before hitting the open road, Airmen and civilians here must complete an approved motorcycle safety course and pass a comprehensive practical exam.

"So many people ride on a regular basis," said Master Sgt. David Schuller 56th Fighter Wing Safety motorcycle safety program manager. "It's important to ensure they're properly trained and are aware of the inherent risks of riding a motorcycle. We can't prevent every tragedy, but at least we can make sure our people have the tools they need to make it home safely at the end of the day."

Conducting that training for Luke members are Team Arizona and RideSmart, two local motorcycle training sites that offer a basic rider course in downtown Phoenix. Seasoned bikers provide in-depth classroom instruction and on the range to give beginners an introduction to the skills they need to master before hitting the streets.

According to RideSmart instructor Tech. Sgt. Kyle Klein, 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, students are taught techniques, such as; looking through the turn; how to safely perform emergency stops; how to properly execute skid control, evasive maneuvering, cornering techniques and more.

Just as operational risk management plays a key role in military operations, risk management is a top priority in motorcycle riding.

While vehicles have many areas to protect occupants, motorcyclists do not have that luxury; all they have is their own safety gear -- helmet, long sleeve shirt, long pants and gloves. That is why it is important for others to be aware of you, according to Don Orton RideSmart instructor.

During his classroom instruction, Sergeant Locke stressed the importance of being seen by car and truck drivers who are not always attentive to those on motorcycles. Good motorcycle riders are those who constantly assess the risks around them and actively work to lower them, he said.

The course also stresses the requirement by both the Air Force and the Department of Defense for Airmen to wear helmets and personal protection equipment both on and off the installation. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that motorcycle helmets reduce the likelihood of a crash fatality by 37 percent. Unhelmeted motorcyclists are three times more likely than helmeted riders to suffer traumatic brain injuries in a crash.

On the range, instructors guide students through a variety of basic riding events. The scenarios are designed to teach students how to avoid dangerous situations and how to safely get out of those situations that can't be avoided.

After completing the course and taking a practical exam, participants earn a certificate exempting them from taking the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles' motorcycle license road test. It also allows them to register and ride their motorcycle on base.

Completion of motorcycle safety training is mandatory for all riders assigned to Luke. "Riding a motorcycle is an awesome experience, but it's also a risk-inherent endeavor," Sergeant Schuller said. "It involves attention to detail, great reflexes, closely monitoring your speed and always staying in control. You can be safe and have fun at the same time."

For more information on how to register for this and other motorcycle safety classes, call Master Sgt. David Schuller at (623) 856-6104.