Dawn Osewatt, a dispatcher for the Mentor Police Department, stands in the classroom area of Western Reserve Harley Davidson during a riding class recollecting a call she once took regarding a motorcycle accident.
The motorcyclist had been speeding when he lost control on the side of the road, according to Osewatt. Police searched the area trying to find the rider and found him in a tree where he had been thrown from his bike.
Osewatt, like the 11 other attendees at the WR Harley Ohio Motorcycle Rider Enhancement Skills Course, is there because she wants to further develop the skills of riders and for them to be safer on a motorcycle.
Courses such as the MORE class can be taken at WR Harley or Lakeland Community College and are the same courses taught by state-run classes.
Jim Taylor, an instructor with WR Harley Davidson’s Riding Academy, feels the important thing for him is being alert anytime he is on a bike.
“I always try to pay attention, sometimes it’s hard,” he said. “We get so good at things or think we are so good at things even driving our cars that we get a little bit lackadaisical about what we are doing and we start thinking about things as we are going down the road,” Taylor said. “We think about what we are doing that evening what we are doing with our families what we are doing at work.”
Taylor points out that in a car people have that as a cage around them but on the bike there is a lot more vulnerability so the alertness factor is a big thing and to stay focused on what they are doing.
Taylor also suggest that a rider get their skills up when getting a new bike before going out on a long ride.
For seasonal riders Taylor also suggest taking some time.
“A lot of people put them away at Halloween and don’t get them out til Easter so there have been months when you haven’t been on this thing,” he said. “So when you take it out in the spring get your legs back take it out a little bit at a time get used to it again before you take it out for that long all day ride.”
According to Sue Rzepka, the WR Harley Riding Academy manager, cornering is the number one single most common cause of a single vehicle motor accident.
“Riders fail to negotiate a curve, this is caused by many factors such as too high of and entry speed followed by improper correction,” Rzepka said. “Improper corrections usually involves at least one of three things: failure to maintain a visual line of sight, meaning a rider looks to where he is heading and not to where he needs to be going, they panic, they hit the brakes which compromises traction and causes the bike to lose traction.”
According to Taylor once a rider is in a cornering situation the options are pretty limited.
“If I’m in the curve and I’m going wide or going sharp, it’s all about pressing and leaning the motorcycle,” Taylor said
According to Taylor, when people try to steer themselves out of a curve is when they run into trouble due to the motor cycle operating with a counter steering technique which means the handle bars actually go in the operate directions of the curve.
The riding courses also cover the proper riding gear to keep riders safe.
According to Taylor the minimum safety gear any rider should have is a Department of Transportation-certified helmet, riding glasses, gloves, long sleeve shirt, pants and boots that cover the ankle.
“Use common sense,” Taylor said. “How much do you value the parts of your body and how much do you want to spend trying to repair yourself with the time off work and time in the hospital. The only protection we have is what we put on ourselves.”
Ohio law does not require all riders to wear helmets, only those who have been riding less than a year and those under the age of 18, according to OHP Trooper Sergeant Jeremy Kindler.
“I would strongly encourage anyone who is going to ride a motorcycle to wear a helmet because your survival rate is about 90 percent higher than if you are not wearing a helmet,” Kindler said.
He responded to a fatal crash last year where the rider hit a deer that ran out in front of him and was thrown from the bike face first into the pavement.
“I firmly believe if he had a helmet on he would have lived because the helmet would have absorb that impact.” Kindler said. “A full face helmet that goes around the chin, if we are talking about safety we are talking about survivability I strongly suggest a helmet.”