Motorcycle safety and awarness urged

Published 3:20 pm Saturday, May 20, 2006

It had been many years since Jed Weems had an accident, but about a year ago he was cruising down Reservoir Road at about 40 mph on his 2000 Harley-Davidson Dyna when a camper truck suddenly stopped in the middle of the road.

Not expecting to see a stationary vehicle in the roadway, Weems, the owner of Gulfway Cycles, which repairs motorcycles, wrecked his motorcycle and the driver of the camper truck left the scene without rendering aid.

“I didn’t realize I was sliding and I tried to stand up,” said Weems, who at 63 has been riding motorcycles for 45 years.

Weems was traveling too fast to stand and when he put his right foot down he was thrown to his back and continued sliding.

“I decided to not move until I stopped sliding,” Weems said.

Weems was fortunate and when he stopped he was left with only skinned arms and an injured foot.

Though he didn’t see a doctor about the injury, and was on crutches for a month, Weems credits the boots and Levis jeans he was wearing with saving him from a more serious injury.

Not everyone is as fortunate as Weems. In 2003, 323 people in Texas died as a result of motorcycle crashes. Two-hundred-and-seven, or 64 percent of those people died because they weren’t wearing a helmet.

“While Texas does not require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets, the DPS strongly encourages riders to wear helmets to increase safety and lives,” a Texas Department of Public Safety press release issued to highlight May as Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month stated.

Texas law states in order to be exempt from wearing a helmet, a person must be at least 21-years-old or be covered by a health insurance plan providing at least $10,000 in medical benefits for motorcycle related injuries.

Weems is not very fond of wearing helmets because had he not been wearing one during a separate accident, he believes he would not have injured his neck. The helmet was just large enough to catch a bumper, which caused the injury.

But he is a proponent of wearing other protective gear.

“If you like your feet, don’t wear tennis shoes,” Weems said, suggesting instead motorcyclists purchase a good pair of boots to protect their ankles.

Motorcyclists shouldn’t wear shorts either, he said.

In ideal weather conditions, motorcyclists should wear leather jackets, pants or chaps. If it is too hot, wearing a long-sleeved cotton shirt is better than not wearing anything at all, he added.

Motorcyclists can also purchase gloves, protective body armor for their elbows, center back and well-ventilated synthetic materials for use in the summer, said Cliff Burdette, Coordinator for DPS Motorcycle Training in Austin.

Burdette recommends motorcyclists purchase helmets approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation, which are labeled with a sticker.

“The majority of all motorcycle fatalities are head fatalities, so why not (purchase one),” he said.

Additionally, Burdette recommends all motorcyclists take a basic motor cycle course. DPS contracts with training sites across the state to provide the coursed. The nearest state approved course is offered at How to Ride Motorcycle Training in Beaumont.

The two-day basic rider course cost $165 and the road test will be waived for people who take the course before obtaining their licenses. A one day experienced rider course is also offered for $65.

“I think everyone should take a motorcycle safety course,” Weems said. “I took one after I’ve been riding (a motorcycle) for 45 years and I learned some things.”

Prior to riding their motorcycles Weems recommends motorcyclists check their air pressure because, because low tire pressure can make a motorcycle feel like it weighs twice as much as it does. And they should check to see if anything is falling off it.

One thing both Weems and Burdette are adamant about are that motorcyclists not lay down their bikes to try to avoid an accident.

“I don’t recommend people lay their bikes down,” Burdette said. “If you lay it down you cant stop; if you laid it down you already had your accident.”

Road Awareness

“If (there’s) a multiple vehicle accident involving a motorcyclist it’s typically a car driver making a left turn in front of the motorcyclist,” Burdette said.

Drivers have a hard time judging the approaching speed of motor cyclists, he said.

“What I ask drivers to do is to take a second look to make sure they know what their approaching speed is,” Burdette said.

Motorcyclists can aid drivers by driving with their head lights on at all times, Burdette said.

“When your on a motorcycle you have to assume no one see you and their going to kill you,”

Drivers should give motorcyclists their share of the road. By state law they are allowed one full lane. He added its against the law for motorcyclists to drive side by side in the same lane.

“Before you change lanes to avoid debris make sure there’s not someone right behind you fixing to change lanes,” Weems said. “They will turn you into debris.”

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