TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Senior Airman William Johnson, 60th Air Mobility Wing Occupational Safety Specialist, learned the importance of his job in a personal way Oct. 2 during a seemingly normal ride down a California highway.
It was a warm autumn Sunday. Johnson was riding his motorcycle near Highway 121 and Monticello Road to meet up with friends near Lake Berryessa. He passed through a construction zone, slowing down to 25-35 mph as he entered a left-hand L turn. Nothing was out of the ordinary, until he noticed a car approaching and swerving dangerously close into his lane.
“I could see the woman [in the car] and she was looking down, at her phone or at the radio,” said Johnson. “The whole time I was hoping she was going to look up because she shouldn’t have crossed into my lane.”
The car wound up swerving 75 percent into Johnson’s lane, colliding with the back end of his motorcycle’s swing arm. The bike was sent hurtling toward off to the right. Johnson hung on for as long as he could and then let go, awaking in a ditch on the right side of the road on top of his bike. The car swerved away and the driver was never found.
Luckily, the car behind had seen the crash and pulled over to help. Johnson was miraculously unharmed, with only some bruises, road rash and damaged equipment to show for what could have been a life-ending accident.
However, what remained were the lasting memories from the crash.
“It usually takes two to three months to get over a fall,” said Johnson. “The hardest part [now] is going into a turn and not thinking about going down mid-turn to psyche myself out. I didn’t think I’d ever get run over by a car, or even hit by a car. Now I think about it a lot more.”
Johnson has been riding motorcycles for five years. Although he would have never wished for the accident to happen, he feels it’s made him a better rider – and a better advocate for safety.
“When I’m out there riding, I always have to remember that I am safety and I always have those eyes on me and anybody that I’m with I try to always help them,” he said. “This stuff happens more often than not. … I try to learn from other people’s mistakes as much as I learn from my own. And I try to teach them, too.”
Johnson and the rest of the 60th Air Mobility Wing Safety office manage the Motorcycle Safety Representatives in each squadron on base and regularly teach classes in motorcycle safety. The accident serves as another educational tool to help riders understand the risks involved with motorcycles.
“I use my accident as an example,” said Johnson. “While you’re out there having fun, you never think about going down. But always think about traffic coming your way, conditions of the road, your tires, your motorcycle and your gear. It happens to everyone, even people in safety. Anything can happen when you’re out there on the road.”