Sgt. Maj. shares lessons learned after recent motorcycle accident

Commentary by Sgt. Maj. Cameron Porter

I was so excited. I had just purchased a new battery, and the weather was looking very nice. In fact, it would turn out to be the first warm, sunny day of 2009.

I reached for my leather jacket, and after having trouble with the zipper, decided to use a sweatshirt instead. I grabbed my helmet, my reflective vest, my Army gloves and boots. I was ready to take my motorcycle out for a Sunday ride.

About two hours and 120 kilometers later, I was cruising down the main street of a small village about 20 kilometers north of Ramstein. The day was turning out to be a very nice, and my first ride of the year was quite enjoyable.

In a flash, a vehicle in front of me made a sudden stop. Quite startled, I locked my brakes, skidded for several yards and laid my motorcycle down to prevent careening into the back of the car. Full of adrenaline, I jumped to my feet and pulled my motorcycle off the pavement. My hand was throbbing with pain and blood was soaking through my sweatshirt and pants at the elbow, knee and forearm.

The injuries I sustained were light – a broken thumb and some serious road rash – but my motorcycle was not so lucky. The estimate done by a repair shop put the damage at €8,250.

Needless to say, I most likely won’t be enjoying anymore motorcycle rides for a while, but I did learn some valuable lessons. A leather jacket and leather pants would have prevented the injuries to my left arm and knee. Armored motorcycle gloves potentially could have saved my thumb, and reinforced armored motorcycle boots would have been a better choice as well.

Conducting a full inspection on my motorcycle before taking it out after sitting for four months would have been a wiser choice. Although I don’t believe the slightly low tire pressure in my front tire was the main cause of the 30-foot skid mark I left before laying down my motorcycle, it was definitely a contributing factor in my opinion.

I’ve been riding motorcycles for 33 years. When I came into the Army 20 years ago, my only mode of transportation was a motorcycle. But as an experienced motorcycle rider, I also realize that I don’t know it all.

Instead, I am constantly learning from other riders, from various training opportunities and sometimes from my own mistakes.

I recommend every person who owns a motorcycle or is thinking about buying a motorcycle seek out opportunities to improve their awareness and their capabilities. I recommend motorcyclists ask their unit leaders about starting up a local motorcycle mentorship and safety program. I recommend motorcyclists seek out additional training at every opportunity.

I also recommend motorcyclists visit the U.S. Army Combat Readiness and Safety Center’s POV and Motorcycle Safety Web site at and the center’s Motorcycle Mentorship Program Web site at for more information. Another great resource is the Motorcycle Safety Foundation at

Armed with additional knowledge and valuable lessons learned, we can help reverse the trend. I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on anyone. Instead, I hope other motorcyclists take note of my poor judgment and learn from my mistakes.