Health & Safety

June 1, 2012

Colonel encourages ‘caged’ drivers to watch out for bikers

Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
(Courtesy photo)
Air Force Col. Dana Morel, right, enjoys an evening out with her friend and fellow Harley-Davidson rider, Carolyn Cowherd in Springfield, Va., April 2011. Cowherd was severely injured in a motorcycle crash in July 2011, and her husband was killed.

WASHINGTON — Col. Dana Morel knows the dangers of motorcycle riding as well as anyone.

A biker herself, Morel was a lieutenant at Mather Air Force Base, Calif., in 1986 when a young airman she knew with the base honor guard took off speeding one night. Distraught over the end of a romance, he missed a turn and crashed his motorcycle into a telephone pole, and died at the scene.

As traumatic as that was, nothing could prepare Morel for a crash that happened last July that took the life of her good friend and fellow biker, Tyler Cowherd, and left his wife, Carolyn, and a friend who was riding with them permanently disabled.

The Cowherds on one Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and their friend on another, were traveling westbound on a Springfield, Va., road on the evening of July 17 when an eastbound car turned in front of them, causing both bikes to crash into the side of it. The motorcycles could not have stopped in time to avoid the collision, and the driver of the car was charged with failing to yield, according to the police report.

Morel says she has struggled to accept the fatal crash “that was so avoidable.” She now speaks out about the need for “caged” drivers — those protected by a car or truck chassis — to be more aware of motorcycles and their vulnerabilities and to slow down and not be distracted drivers.

“I like to think that most motorcyclists are safe [drivers],” Morel said. “But, you’re completely vulnerable, completely exposed. When you get in a car, you don’t think that much about it.”

While motorcycle courses teach about road conditions and situations hazardous to bikers, regular driving classes rarely mention motorcycles, Morel said. Before she gets onto her Harley-Davidson, she added, she has checked out road and weather conditions and shared any potential hazards with other bikers.

“We’re always watching out for that,” she said.

Morel commutes by Metro bus each day to the Pentagon where she is a deputy division chief in an Air Force acquisitions office. She says she has been dismayed by the various things people do while driving.

“People are so distracted,” she said. “I see text messaging [by drivers] every single day when I’m on the bus. They’re taking their eyes off the road for things that have absolutely nothing to do with driving.” Morel said she’s observed drivers texting, talking, tuning the radio, eating and putting on makeup.

Morel said she is encouraged that the Defense Department promotes Motorcycle Safety Foundation standards, which have stricter requirements than states’ motor vehicle departments.

“The MSF is the gold standard,” she said. “If you can pass it, you’re good to go.”

There are many motorcycle clubs, Morel said, that stress safety for their riders and do charitable work for veterans, military families, and community needs. Patriot Guard Riders, American Veterans Motorcycle Riders Association, and Desert Storm Riders are just a few, she said.

Morel has come full circle with motorcycles: her 20-year-old son, who is in a Marine Corps ROTC program, recently told her he is shopping for a motorcycle. At first, Morel was nervous about it.

“But after spending time with him, I realized he is making good choices.” she.

Morel’s son convinced her he will be a safe driver, and she said he looks forward to riding with her.

“I don’t know if that scares me as much as him going into the Marine Corps, or vice versa,” she said. “But a mom is like that about anything with her kids. You’re going to be afraid of whatever they do.”

Morel said she knows she can’t stop him, especially when she also rides. “What I can do is support him in being safe,” she said.

Last week, Morel rode her Harley nine hours down to the annual Bike Week at Myrtle Beach, S.C. When she returned, she learned of another motorcycle tragedy very much like the one that took her friend’s life last summer: a 25-year-old volunteer firefighter from Culpepper, Va., died after slamming into a car that had turned in front of him.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
IronMan_pict

Special Operations develops ‘Iron Man’ Suit

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit is cool. But it’s not real. The Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit is cool, too. But it is real and may soon be protecting America’s special operations forces...
 
 

Financial responsibility — vital to readiness

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — In the “Band of Brothers” miniseries, there is a line in the movie where the soldiers are told to make sure they sign up for life insurance to ensure their next-of-kin gets $10,000 upon the soldier’s death. While none of us are about to make a combat jump in 1944 to...
 
 

Lessons learned in protecting social media accounts

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — On a Saturday afternoon in late November, I was informed about a political remark that appeared on my Director of Public Affairs Twitter feed. A staff member called to ask if I was aware of the re-tweet. At the time, I was on leave, out of the state, tending to my daughter...
 

 

Adapt, overcome, succeed

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — Change is inevitable, especially in today’s Air Force. If you’ve been serving for more than a few years, it’s likely you’ve experienced everything from new physical fitness requirements to the implementation of force management programs. Enlisted performance reports and feedback forms have been altered and changes to the promotion system are...
 
 

Living in the New Normal

The Military Child Education Coalition, or MCEC, will be hosting Living in the New Normal Institute, Feb. 4-5. LINN-I is a free two-day institute outlining specific community resources, deployment information and practical strategies for encouraging resilience in all children. Some learning outcomes to expect from the training are differentiating affective aspects of children dealing with...
 
 
Training_pict4

Air Force, Army conduct joint service training

U.S. Air Force and Arizona Army National Guard units conducted joint training at a southern Arizona military training range Jan. 20. A-10C Thunderbolt IIs from the 354th Fighter Squadron, based out of D-M, and a UH-60A Black Ha...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin