Complacency kills, motorcyclists warn fellow riders, drivers

Published: Thursday, May 8 2014 4:20 p.m. MDT

Jeff Robinson skids through a paper barrier demonstrating what happens when using only the rear brake rather than both brakes during a Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month kickoff in Draper, Thursday, May 8, 2014.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Being too comfortable on a motorcycle can get even an experienced rider seriously injured or even worse.

Terry Dammer recalled a “routine” ride he was making in California years ago.

“I was just cruising home for lunch,” he explained during a press conference Thursday. The veteran rider of more than 40 years said he was moving along at about 65 mph when a teenage driver pulled out in front of him from the right shoulder. He said because of his years of training, he was able to avoid almost certain death.

“I saw (the) car off on the shoulder of the road, but I didn’t even think (about it),” he said. “I got so complacent that I didn’t (consider), 'What if they pull out?'

“I should have been rolling off the throttle to slow down, covering my brakes and getting over in the lane just in case … and I didn’t do it,” Dammer said. “I made a bad decision and it bit me.”

He avoided a potentially fatal “t-bone” collision, but swerved and crashed to the ground on freshly paved asphalt, fracturing his wrist in four places and removing several layers of skin all the way to the muscle.

“It was like a cheese grater,” he recalled. “I lost skin on both my arms, my hips and my legs.”

Fortunately, he was wearing a helmet, but had taken off his leather jacket due to the warm weather. Having to endure the removal of asphalt from his skin at the hospital was an excruciating experience that he said he will never forget.

While he was out of commission for a while, Dammer admitted that he was grateful that the crash wasn’t worse. The major lesson he learned was to never become too comfortable on a motorcycle. One of his favorite acronyms he now uses is C.K. — “complacency kills.”

“On a motorcycle, you don’t have that steel cage around you to help protect you (like when you’re in a car),” he said. “You can make mistakes in a car, (but) you can’t make those mistakes on a motorcycle.”

Today, Dammer is a motorcycle rider coach and safety instructor at Hill Air Force Base. He strongly encourages his students to remain vigilantly aware at all times.

Since 2003, there have been 311 motorcycle fatalities in Utah, nearly 11 percent of all vehicle-related deaths.

Keith Squires, commissioner of the Utah Department of Public Safety, said with motorcycle casualties increasing across the state, riders and drivers need to do more to reverse the deadly trend.

“(Riders) have to pay more attention to the environment around them,” he said. “Equally, drivers need to pay much more attention to motorcycles (that) are sharing the highways with them.”

Squires recommends that new riders take a certified motorcycle safety course to learn the techniques that could help them in a potentially dangerous situation and "develop the skills that can save you from serious injury."

“The whole purpose is for us to get home (safely),” he said.

For more information on approved safety training, visit http://utahmotorcyclesafety.com.

E-mail: jlee@deseretnews.com, Twitter: JasenLee1

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