1ST SGT. JUSTIN THOMAS
Alpha Company, 489th Brigade Support Battalion,
204th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade
Camp Williams, Utah
It was a beautiful, warm morning in Utah as we loaded up the dirt bikes to head to the canyon for a ride. We’d be meeting some friends and the seven of us would ride together in a group. Once we arrived at the parking lot and unloaded our bikes, we began preparing for the ride by putting on all of our appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), which included helmets, chest protectors, gloves, boots, goggles, riding pants and jerseys. We then discussed the route for the ride and held our safety brief, where we stressed safe following distances. It’s what we didn’t discuss that got us in trouble.
The group had ridden together many times in the past and we were all familiar with each other. Today’s ride would be a fairly simple one because we had our children with us. We planned to go three and a half miles up a dirt road followed by two miles of trail riding before returning to the parking lot. We took a winding dirt road toward the trail with two adults out front, two children in the middle and three adults in the rear. Everyone maintained a safe riding distance between bikes, and the dust wasn’t bad enough to hinder our visibility.
As we neared the top of a hill, we saw two bulls on the side of the road. They were locking horns, trying to enforce their dominance upon one another. As you can imagine, everyone took their eyes off the road as we neared the bulls, wanting to see what would happen next. It was really quite a sight, and being out in the open on a bike made it feel even more real.
We had all slowed to about 10 mph when the two lead riders decided to stop abruptly to continue watching. The two children noticed the riders stopped and both began to slow down and stop as well. The second to last rider also took her eyes off the road to watch the bulls. However, when she turned her head forward to continue riding, she was surprised to find a 9-year-old boy on his motorcycle stopped right in front of her.
Still traveling about 10 mph, she ran into the back of the boy, throwing him and his dirt bike to the ground. Two of the riders were volunteer emergency medical technicians and immediately ran over to see if the boy was injured. Fortunately, he only suffered a little bruising and a good scare — as did the rider that ran into him.
We thought we had mitigated all of the risks associated with our ride that day. This incident proved that even though the group was experienced, rode frequently together, wore all the appropriate PPE and had even established a safe following distance plan, accidents still happen. There were several factors that led to the accident, but two stand out. For future rides, our group incorporated two new rules: No immediate stopping unless absolutely necessary, and keep your eyes on the road at all times.