PPE: A Matter of Life or Death
RETIRED COMMAND SGT. MAJ. CLYDE GLENN
Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade
Fort Benning, Georgia
I woke up and looked outside at the beautiful morning in Watertown, New York. I was excited because this meant I would be able to ride my motorcycle to work. The riding season in upstate New York is short, so you have to take advantage of the nice days.
I showered, shaved, dressed and then went downstairs and put on all my personal protective equipment, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, boots, gloves, reflective vest and helmet. I had the promotion board that morning, so my plan was to ride to a fellow Soldier’s house, where I’d change clothes and ride to work with him in his car.
I left my house just after sunrise. The traffic light at the end of my street was green, and I made a left turn to head for the highway. I was now on a four-lane road with a turn lane in the center, heading west at about 40 mph in the far-right lane. There was no traffic in front of me, but I did notice an eastbound car getting off the highway on the other side of the road. All of a sudden, the driver swerved across all four lanes, cutting me off. I had little to no time to react, but I managed to pull in the clutch, try to downshift and start hitting the breaks.
It was no sooner than I hit the brakes that I struck the car between the front tire and bumper. The next thing I knew, I was flying through the air while clinched up tight, just waiting to land. I hit head first with my stomach toward the ground. Fortunately, I was wearing a full-face helmet when my head bounced off the pavement.
I finally came to a rest in a gas station parking lot and almost immediately heard people running toward me to see if I was all right. As I wiggled my fingers and toes to ensure everything was working properly, I could feel the blood running down my face. I wanted to jump up and start yelling at the driver, but I knew I should probably stay put to avoid further injuring myself. Instead, I just laid there and waited for the ambulance to arrive.
So how did this accident happen? It turns out that when I made the left turn onto the four-lane road, the traffic light changed shortly afterward. This meant that the westbound traffic that was stopped at the light had resumed and was about 100 yards behind me. The driver that cut me off was attempting to pull in to the gas station. Instead of getting into the turn lane, she tried to speed across the road and beat the oncoming traffic. To make matters worse, the rising sun was shining directly into her eyes. She never saw me coming and turned right in front of me.
I learned a valuable lesson that day. No matter how safe you think you are on your motorcycle, you’re still at risk of other drivers not seeing you. I did everything right that day and still ended up in the hospital. Fortunately, I was wearing all of my protective gear and only suffered minor injuries. My helmet had some deep scratches on the forehead area and down the left side of the face. I am sure it was the difference between life and death.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 42 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes that involved another motor vehicle were the result of a vehicle turning left while the motorcyclist was going straight, passing or overtaking a vehicle. For more information, visit https://one.nhtsa.gov/links/GetUpToSpeed/index.html.