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.


 
 

 

The new fight: Writing cyber into the science of war

Every year, the Aspen Security Forum brings together the top minds in defense, intelligence and homeland security. This year, more than ever, the conversation is turning to cybersecurity – protecting computer networks and everything attached to them. Cyber is constantly changing the way conflicts and combat unfold. Here, former U.S. Navy Rear Adm. William Leigher offers insights...
 
 

TRICARE now provides breast pumps, lactation counseling

Mothers that choose to breast feed their infants might be surprised to learn that TRICARE updated its coverage to include breast pumps and supplies as of July 1. TRICARE can aid expecting Desert Lightning Team mothers through the process to obtain a breast pump and supplies. There are multiple methods to receive a pump or...
 
 
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse)

Airmen to keep focus on safety at home

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, ARIZONA — Airmen are constantly trained to be safe in everything while at work, but how safe are we when we arrive home? According to the National Safety Council, an estimated 93,200 unintentional i...
 

 

Mental health: To go or not to go

  CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nevada (AFNS) — (This feature is part of the “Through Airmen’s Eyes” series. These stories focus on individual Airmen, highlighting their Air Force story.) The clinic buildings themselves aren’t scary, but add the words ‘mental health,’ and most people will avoid them like they contain tigers on the loose. That’s...
 
 

PT exemptions for new AF mothers to increase

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — The six-month deferment for female Airmen to accomplish their fitness assessments following childbirth will be increased to 12 months to align with recent changes to the deployment deferments, Air Force officials announced July 14. The deployment deferment policy, as part of the Air Force’s 2015 Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, increases the deferment...
 
 

Keeping Airmen healthy and informed through Operation Supplement Safety

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — For peak performance, Airmen should eat healthy and exercise regularly. But in the quest to gain an “edge,” many Airmen resort to dietary supplements. Enter Operation Supplement Safety, or OPSS. This Defense Department educational campaign, accessible at www.hprc-online.org/opss, educates the warfighter and healthcare provider on responsible dietary supplement us...
 




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=""> <s> <strike> <strong>