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Dress for the Crash, Not the Ride

Dress for the Crash, Not the Ride

Training and Education Directorate
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
Fort Rucker, Alabama

In early March 2019, I received a phone call from my youngest brother. He was going to preach at the church that my grandparents have been members of most of their adult lives. The service would take place in Greeneville, Tennessee, about 500 miles from my home in Enterprise, Alabama. I decided not only to attend, but to ride my motorcycle there.

The day before I was to leave, I inspected my bike and personal protective equipment (PPE). I noticed the Kevlar in my jacket was deteriorated and the face shield on my full-face helmet was scratched badly. It was too late to get a new face shield, so I bought a new jacket and helmet that evening. This would be the first time I’d ridden more than 300 miles and I wanted to be as safe as possible.

I came home and finished packing the bike, ensuring the load was balanced, before going to sleep about 10 p.m. The next morning, I woke around 8 a.m., got dressed and inspected my bike once again. I then rode to the local Huddle House restaurant to eat a good breakfast before my long trip.

I made my first stop at a gas station just outside Montgomery. There, I called my wife, who was in Texas visiting family, and checked in with a friend to let them know where I was on my route. From that point on, I took a break at either a rest area or gas station every two hours, each time phoning my wife and friend. On two of those stops, I was tempted to remove my jacket due to the slight rise in temperature, but I resisted the urge both times. I knew if I was to get into an accident, the jacket would save me some skin.

About 5 p.m., I entered Knoxville, Tennessee, on I-40 East, about 50 miles from my final destination. There was construction on the left side of the road, and vehicles in all four lanes of traffic were traveling about 50-60 mph. I was riding with the speed of traffic in the far left-hand lane when I felt my rear tire slide a little. I corrected the bike and then my front tire started to wobble, which caused my motorcycle to slide out from under me. As I laid the bike down, I pushed myself away as it slid toward the direction of traffic. Fortunately, I managed to roll my body into the left-hand median.

Some guys ran over to offer assistance. They helped me to my feet, but they would not let me take off my helmet for fear I may have an unseen injury. I noticed some other good Samaritans pick up my bike and move it to the right-hand side of the road. One of them also handed me my phone. I was still feeling a bit frazzled, so I asked him to call my wife for me.

Once I was safely on the side of the road, an ambulance arrived. When one of the paramedics saw me walking around, she smiled and said, “You were dressed for it.” This was the first motorcycle accident she’d responded to where the rider got up and walked away. She then told me to take off my helmet and look at it. The right side had an 8- to 10-inch scrape from the middle of the forehead to the back-right side. The face shield had a 4-inch scrape down the top-right side. Had I been wearing a half helmet, I probably would be dead. My only injures were a scraped left knee and some minor road rash.

I have no doubt that several factors allowed me to walk away from the accident, the first being my training. The training I received in the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic RiderCourse and Enhanced RiderCourse taught me to prepare for an accident. Riding on two wheels demands risk analysis at every step and taking measures to reduce the hazards, including being properly trained and prepared.

Second, I conducted multiple pre-inspection checks before I started my trip. These inspections are paramount to safe riding. Remember to not only check out your bike, but also your riding gear, helmet, gloves and jacket. When I noticed my jacket and helmet’s face shield were unsafe, I replaced them. Riders can download a motorcycle inspection list on the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center’s website at https://safety.army.mil/Portals/0/Documents/OFF-DUTY/PMV-2/PAMPHLETSCHECKLISTS/Standard/T-CLOCSInspectionChecklist_2008.pdf.

Third, I had an effective ride plan. I ensured I stopped for a break every few hours to stretch and prevent fatigue. I also made sure to check in with my wife and friend on those breaks. Discussing your route and estimated check-in times allows others to know when you expect to arrive at your destination. If something were to happen, such as a crash, those people could tell authorities your last known location.

Finally, the PPE I wore on this ride was the true hero of this story. I have a friend I often ride with who constantly says, “Dress for the crash, not the ride.” That’s exactly what I did. I will never ride without a Department of Transportation-approved full-face helmet, riding jacket and gloves. And while I was tempted to remove my jacket due to the rising temperatures, I kept it on because I knew it would protect me if I was involved in an accident. I realize PPE can’t protect me from all of the dangers related to riding on two wheels, but it will enhance the chances of surviving a crash.


For more information on safe riding, visit the USACRC’s motorcycle safety page at https://safety.army.mil/OFF-DUTY/PMV-2-Motorcycles.

  • 25 April 2021
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 857
  • Comments: 0
Categories: Off-DutyPMV-2