MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- There are two kinds of motorcycle riders in the world; those who have crashed and those who will.
-Motorcycle Safety Course instructor Hank Hangsleben
It’s a rider’s worst nightmare. Riding your motorcycle home after a night out with friends, and realizing it’s too late. You took the corner too fast. Corporal David Shirley, a heavy-machine gunner with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 2d Marines, survived this nightmare and luckily lived to tell his story.
“It’s a pretty short story actually,” he began. “I’d been drinking at a bar and left to go home. I took a corner at about 40 [miles per hour], hit gravel and began to slide. When the tire finally caught pavement, I was thrown through the windshield as the bike flipped over.”
Shirley, who was riding a Suzuki GSXR-750 at the time, wasn’t wearing a helmet when he crashed. He realizes now how lucky he really was.
“I had asphalt in the back of my head and a gash across my left forehead,” he said. “My eyebrow was hanging down and my left eye was swollen shut.”
Those injuries were in addition to the asphalt imbedded into his left shoulder and elbow.
“I was lucky to escape with just those injuries,” said Shirley.
According to the Naval Safety Center, the Marine Corps is on pace for 32 fatalities in privately owned vehicle accidents in 2005. However, with a large number of Marines returning from deployments, many people in the local motorcycle community are expecting this number to rise.
“I wish it weren’t true, but we see it every time there is a large number of deployments,” said Hank Hangsleben . “Marines dying and getting seriously injured in motorcycle accidents. It makes all of us safety instructors wonder where we are going wrong, what we can do to warn them and teach them about how to ride safe.”
According to Shirley, much of his motorcycle knowledge came from riding dirt bikes when he was twelve.
“I’ve been riding street bikes since I was 16,” he explained. “I taught myself to ride, and I picked up a lot of bad habits from friends and family.”
So, in order to get a base sticker for his new Suzuki GSKR-1000, and to learn the proper way to ride such a large motorcycle, Shirley enrolled in the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s safety course held at Camp Johnson and Coastal Carolina Community College.
“I wanted to see what the course taught, to see what I was doing wrong,” he said. “So far the class and I have learned safety really is the most important thing. You can anticipate some things, but not everything.”
Along with learning to anticipate possible accidents, Shirley’s class also learned the value of wearing all the proper safety equipment and the importance of making good decisions.
“I guess if there is one thing I can share with everyone, it’s to make sure to your wearing all your riding gear,” he said. “Never drink and drive. I was lucky. My accident could have been a lot worse.”