What Not to Do
SGT. 1ST CLASS BRIAN MOSS
439th Quartermaster Company
U.S. Air Force Reserve
New Haven, Connecticut
For years I have bought my children small dirt bikes and ridden with them. I never let them ride without wearing their personal protective equipment (PPE) and always set the example by wearing my own — except that one day when I made an exception.
It was late on a Sunday afternoon during Labor Day weekend and I was working with friends to roof a barn. The kids were bored and went looking for something more exciting to do. Eventually, they found their dirt bikes and dragged them out. Having been sitting for a while, the bikes were difficult to start, so I came down from the roof to help get them running.
Once I got the bikes started, the kids rode them up and down our 900-foot-long dirt driveway a couple of times. My kid complained his bike wasn’t running correctly, so I decided to give it a quick check ride. I ignored my own rules about wearing PPE and didn’t put on a helmet, gloves or other protective gear. After all, I was only going up and down the driveway. What could happen?
About two-thirds of the way down the driveway, the engine started to over-rev. I couldn’t get the bike to downshift, so I tried to slow it down by using the rear brake. Well, that didn't work either and I was fast approaching the end of the driveway, which opened onto a busy state road. Instead of going for the shut-off valve, I grabbed the brake handle, locked up the front tire and spun to the left. I then launched over the handlebars, landed on my left shoulder, flipped and slid face-down for at least 25 feet. Altogether, I managed to break my collarbone, burn my left leg, get a nasty case of road rash on my right arm and face (got four stitches there) and tear up my knees and elbows. Some example I was.
Had I been wearing my helmet and other PPE, the only injury I probably would have suffered would have been the broken collarbone. Instead, I provided my children with a perfect example of what not to do. Maybe at least seeing the consequences made an impression on them. Hitting the road certainly made an impression on me!
I’m glad I was on the bike and not one of the kids when the engine malfunctioned. However, at least they were wearing their safety equipment — which reinforced a lesson for me. There is no situation so safe or harmless that you don’t need to wear your PPE.