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May Chief's Concerns

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Lee Shepherd, 169th Fighter Wing Safety and Occupational Health Manager with the 169th Operations Group, South Carolina Air National Guard at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, April 28, 2015.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Lee Shepherd, 169th Fighter Wing Safety and Occupational Health Manager with the 169th Operations Group, South Carolina Air National Guard at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, April 28, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- Time to Ride!

Spring is here; that means our friends that favor two wheels are taking to the road. Riders and car drivers have to share the road safely, and all three groups can take steps to prevent accidents. Here are some tips to live by:

Car drivers; sure we have the weight advantage and will probably survive an encounter with a motorcycle or bike, but could you live with killing someone through your carelessness? First rule, pay attention; motorcycles and bicycles are smaller and harder to see than automobiles. This size difference makes it easier to misjudge their speed and distance, so look twice before turning right or left, before entering an intersection or before changing lanes. Be especially careful when overtaking bicyclists; be patient and only pass when you can do so legally, and safely. Share the road!

If you are a motorcyclist, riding sober is the first rule to riding safely. Operating a motorcycle requires maximum focus, balance, coordination and physical skill; alcohol diminishes all of these abilities. In 2012, more than two thousand riders were killed in single vehicle crashes. Forty-three percent of those operators were impaired; on weekend nights that percentage grows to sixty-four percent. Stay sober and enjoy the ride.

Motorcyclists complain that car drivers act like they don't even see me. You can increase the odds they will see you by adding some high visibility, contrasting colors to your gear. Sorry, but black just does not stand out against that asphalt roadway, its simple science. While we're talking about gear, the odds are improved when you wear it all and wear it correctly.

Finally, if you ride; take advantage of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation courses we offer at McEntire. These classes save lives. I have received several emails from experienced riders that say they learned a new skill that they used within a week of taking the class to avoid a mishap. During two mishap investigations, conducted here at McEntire, the riders involved said their injuries would have been worse or they could have been killed if they had not used their training during the accident. We have great instructors; they make the classes challenging and fun so contact the Safety Office and sign up.

Bicyclists probably face the greatest challenge in South Carolina. Our roads and drivers are not bicycle friendly; which is all the more reason to take additional precautions when you're riding. Sounds crazy but don't drink and ride. Twenty-four percent of bicyclists killed in an accident had a Blood Alcohol Content of .08 or higher. Follow the rules of the road; stop at stop signs, look both ways before entering the roadway, use hand signals, and ride with traffic.

Most bicyclist fatalities occur between 4 p.m. and midnight during periods of low visibility, when the sun is low in the sky creating glare or when it is dark. You can increase your visibility by riding in groups, wearing fluorescent/reflective clothing and shoes, and lights or reflectors on your bike and your belongings.

If you are a bicyclist, find a safer road; seek out roads with bike lanes. Find a group or club to ride with. Ft. Jackson has group rides on less traveled roads and local bike shops have information on group rides. Before I forget, wear your helmet!

Be careful out there.