Some motorcycle mishaps are avoidable

Vance Air Force Base, Okla. -- To all Vance Air Force Base motorcycle riders:
A Vance team member recently experienced a motorcycle mishap.
This is not the result of a formal investigation, but an interview between the squadron motorcycle safety officer and the "mishap rider."
Nevertheless, in the tradition of Air Force safety investigating and reporting, we'll look at what happened, what resulted and what could have been done to avoid the incident.
In early December, the mishap rider and his wife took their new motorcycle, or M/C, out to a country dirt road to practice riding it. The weather was clear and cool and it hadn't rained recently. The couple had owned the M/C -- a 250cc four-stroke single-cylinder dirt bike (not street legal) -- for less than two weeks, and neither was an experienced rider.
Neither rider was licensed nor had completed any motorcycle rider safety courses. Both riders were dressed in long pants and shirts and were wearing boots and gloves. Because they only owned one full-face helmet, the rider wore a "shorty" street helmet while his wife wore the full-face helmet. He did not wear any eye protection.
The riders were on the M/C together, with the husband in front operating the controls. His wife was able to hold on to him for balance, but was not able to place her feet properly due to a lack of passenger foot pegs. The couple was riding back and forth along a straight, flat stretch of road at approximately 20 mph (estimated due to lack of a speedometer). At one point a rottweiler ran out of a field barking and established an intercept course with the M/C. The driver accelerated the M/C to approximately 30 mph and avoided the dog.
Following this incident, the driver had no option other than to turn around and return down the same road in the opposite direction. Again the dog ran out to intercept the M/C, this time pulling adequate lead to maneuver in front of the M/C. The dog then crouched down in front of the M/C and stopped. The driver initially accelerated to try to outrun the dog, but started to slow down again when he realized the dog was blocking his path.
He did not attempt any lateral maneuver to avoid the dog. The M/C struck the dog causing both passengers to fall off. The M/C fell on top of the driver while his wife was thrown clear. He suffered a dislocated left shoulder and moderate abrasion injuries to his face. His wife was uninjured. The M/C was slightly damaged. The dog's status is unknown.
What can we learn from this? There are several "Operational Risk Management" points that stand out. Maybe there are more.
Teaching yourself how to do anything complex and potentially dangerous can mean trouble. The driver acknowledged he wasn't a very experienced rider and wasn't capable of maneuvering the bike adequately to avoid the "obstacle," either by stopping or going around it. The dirt is a great place to learn how to operate a motorcycle, away from traffic and hard pavement, but it's still necessary to know and practice the basic skills. Rapid stops require smooth, firm and coordinated application of both brakes. Further, on any situation with limited traction it's necessary to be prepared to quickly release and reapply brakes if a wheel locks up, sort of a "manual anti-lock" concept.
At any significant forward speed, motorcycles must be "counter-steered" due to gyroscopic effects. This means riders must "push left to go left" when performing a turning maneuver. This isn't intuitive and generally must be taught to beginning riders, who often attempt to turn the wheel in the direction they want to go, as they would in a car.
Always use the appropriate cranium and eye protection. Air Force Instruction 91-207 requires military personnel to wear an approved helmet with a face shield or goggles, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, full-fingered gloves and sturdy footwear during motorcycle operation, both on and off road. For off-road operations, operators are further encouraged to wear knee and shin guards, a chest protector and padded gloves. Moreover, common sense says that a helmet and eye protection should always be used any time passengers are on a moving vehicle where they could fall or be thrown off onto a hard surface.
While shorty helmets are legal in many states and are currently accepted by the Air Force, they are generally not considered adequate protection by any motorcycle safety organization. Finally, those unsure whether to always wear eye protection can ask themselves how pleasant it felt the last time an eyelash got in their eye. Now imagine a 50-mph object in the same eye. Wear eye protection.
Passengers need foot pegs. When carrying a passenger on the back of a motorcycle, for proper balance and controllability it is essential for the passenger and operator to function as one "entity" as much as possible. This means the passenger should hold securely onto the operator and always attempt to match his or her lean angle. Holding onto a seat strap or grab rail compromises the passenger's security and balance, making it much tougher for the operator to maneuver and maintain control. Also, if foot pegs aren't installed a passenger is unable to brace him or herself to avoid shifting his or her weight from side to side, unable to lift up off the seat to absorb bumps, and risks catching his or her feet on obstacles.
Know how to "cross" a dog. Sometimes it can't be helped: a small animal decides to martyr itself for the cause, and chooses a human as the instrument of its destiny. The best bet is to see and avoid.
Rule One is: Don't lock the brakes. Locking a wheel on the animal will cause a fall. Instead, roll over it. Release the brakes, stand up on the foot pegs and lean back to lighten the front wheel. Grip the handlebars securely and allow some give in the bars.
Concentrate on maintaining balance. Be prepared for the front wheel to rise as it crosses the bump, followed quickly by the back wheel, which may hop up, causing the seat to reconnect with backsides. After crossing over and re-establishing control, stop carefully to check on the animal, but don't just look back over a shoulder and drive into a tree. Note that this obstacle-crossing technique is a standard part of the off-road rider's repertoire and should be practiced to perfect it before it's needed. It works for any type of small obstacle in the path but judgment must be applied in the case of objects not clearable Stopping or avoiding is always preferable if possible. Ride smart!