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

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

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

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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