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VC's first female motorcycle safety instructor trains riders (video)

By Elena Watts
July 6, 2013 at 2:06 a.m.
Updated July 7, 2013 at 2:07 a.m.


Motorcycle Basic Safety course

WHEN: July 19-21, Aug. 2-4 and Aug. 16-18; class times are 6-10 p.m. Friday, 8-4 p.m. Saturday and 8-3 p.m. Sunday.

WHERE: The College Services and Training building, Room 104-B, and the adjacent motorcycle riding range.

FOR MORE INFO: Call 361-582-2528 or visit victoriacollege.edu/motorcyclesafety.

What to Wear When You Ride

Helmet: It's one of the best items of protection a rider can wear.

Eye Protection: Riding with bare eyeballs is a gamble. Eyes are precious, and it does not take much to injure one.

Jacket: Leather offers the most protection when it comes to abrasion. The jackets come with zippered vents, which are comfortable to wear even in hot weather.

Pants: They should be made of thick material, ideally leather.

(Some riders choose jackets and pants with rigid body armor inserts in critical areas for additional protection.)

Gloves: Always wear gloves. The car in front might throw up a rock that hits a rider's fingers, and bare hands cannot withstand abrasion in the event of a fall.

Boots: Protect ankles with over-the-ankle boots made of strong leather. Rubber soles with good tread offer the best grip.

Raingear: It rains everywhere. Take a good motorcycle rainsuit along with rain-covers for boots and gloves as well.

Hearing Protection: Long-term exposure to engine and wind noise can cause permanent hearing damage. Proper protection such as foam ear plugs or custom-molded devices reduce noise while allowing a rider to hear important sounds.

Source: Motorcycle Safety Foundation

QUICK TIPS

General guidelines for riding a motorcycle safely

BE VISIBLE:

• Remember that motorists often have trouble seeing motorcycles and reacting in time.

• Make sure your headlight works and is on day and night.

DRESS FOR SAFETY:

• Wear a quality helmet and eye protection.

• Wear bright clothing and a light-colored helmet.

• Wear leather or other thick, protective clothing.

APPLY EFFECTIVE MENTAL STRATEGIES:

• Constantly search the road for changing conditions.

•  Give yourself space and time to respond to other motorists' actions.

• Give other motorists time and space to respond to you.

• Use lane positioning to be seen; ride in the part of a lane where you are most visible.

KNOW YOUR BIKE AND HOW TO USE IT:

• Get formal training and take refresher courses.

• Practice. Develop your riding techniques before going into heavy traffic. Know how to handle your bike in conditions such as wet or sandy roads, high winds and uneven surfaces.

Source: Motorcycle Safety Foundation

Aftan Puente, 28, is the first female motorcycle safety instructor, or RiderCoach, at Victoria College.

On Saturday, she trained students for the first time on the motorcycle riding range next to the College Services and Training building. She lectured the small group and signaled them with her hands when they were at the opposite end of the range.

The Bay City native who resides in Victoria grew up riding on the back of her father's motorcycle before she rode on the back of her husband's.

"You see everything on a motorcycle," Puente said. "There's nothing between you and the wildflowers."

When the passenger seat became too uncomfortable, she decided to drive her own.

In 2009, she enrolled in the motorcycle safety course at the college. She was the youngest in her class and the only female. Her instructor, Stephen Fuhrman, who is now her co-worker, described Puente as passionate and inquisitive about the male-dominated form of transportation.

Usually, one to three females enroll in each class of 12, said Fuhrman, who has worked part time for the college since 2006.

More women continue to take up riding. In 2009, 10 percent of motorcycle owners were women, compared with 6 percent in 1990, according to an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety report. Also, only 4 percent of the 4,105 motorcycle drivers killed in 2011 crashes were women, while 93 percent of the 278 passengers who died were women.

In 2009, the safety course became a state requirement to obtain a motorcycle license, Fuhrman said. Texas is one of six states that requires all new riders to complete a rider training course, according to the insurance institute report.

Training to become a RiderCoach typically takes six to nine months. Puente completed that training in April.

The safety course covers topics ranging from personal protective gear to basic riding skills to street strategies. Students are taught to make themselves visible and ride as though they are invisible.

"Wear a bright colored jacket and helmet and ride a bright motorcycle," Fuhrman said. "Add lighting to the motorcycle and wear reflective clothing at night."

Only 20 percent of motorcycle accidents happen from the rear. Therefore, there are better ways to save lives than with loud muffler pipes that generate sound behind the motorcycle, he said.

Most accidents and close calls happen at intersections. Often, a car turning left does not yield the right of way to the motorcycle.

"Prepare at intersections, slow down and assume the car is going to turn in front of you," he said.

The college's Workforce and Continuing Education Department offers at least one three-day motorcycle safety class per month, year-round. As many as three are offered during summer months, when schedules are most flexible and weather conditions most desirable.

The course, which costs $195, caters to experienced riders in need of review and beginning riders. Helmets and motorcycles are provided.

Fuhrman called Puente about the RiderCoach position because he remembered that she stopped by a year after she earned her certification to drive a motorcycle.

She told him that he had taught her something that saved her life.

RiderCoaches are "there to help you in a safe learning environment," Puente said.

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