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Rules of Engagement

On their own initiative and with a stash of their own cash, two California firefighters went to Haiti to see how they could help after the 2010 earthquake. They did things like feeding people who might have missed the food delivery and helping others get a needed ride to a hospital. Of course their EMT training was useful as well.

One of them had made a similar trip to help the people ravaged by 2000 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. After that initial trip, he formulated a set of rules for himself that included: "Be humble. You can't save the whole world. Don't promise anything you can't deliver. The only difference between you and them is where you were born."

These are some pretty good rules for us to keep in mind when we engage the traffic mix on the highways and byways of our country. We need to be humble on the road because we can't change everyone else. We can only change how we deal with other drivers. Our vulnerability and lack of protection other than the gear we're wearing means we must not try to rule the others sharing the pavement with us. We simply have too much to lose and we're just not equipped for the battle.

It may not seem fair that we're unable to fight for our legal rights on the road by demanding others to respect our presence. We all know what the end results will likely be if we become assertive or arrogant in that pursuit. Sure we might get away with it a few times, but ultimately we will pay the price. Humility doesn't equate to meekness but it can allow us to continue riding for a long time.

We also need to avoid promising anything that we can't deliver. This is especially true when we're riding in a group or carrying a passenger. The others riding with us expect that we will all have a trouble free ride. And our passenger expects our outing to be an enjoyable experience, too. When we join others for a ride or let another person climb on our bike, we are implicitly promising that we will ride in a manner that meets their expectations of a pleasant adventure.

The firefighter's final rule is for us to simply understand that the only difference between us and them is our vehicle. Members of both groups have varying skill levels when it comes to operating their vehicles and dealing with traffic. When and how did they learn to drive or ride and how long ago was it? What bad habits have slowly crept up on them and are now affecting their operating skills?

Everyone on the road faces life pressures that can affect their mood and concentration at any given time. Both drivers and riders are subject to becoming distracted while they're navigating their vehicles and can experience periods of aggressiveness. Because of their size, many car drivers don't understand motorcycles and have trouble determine their speed and distance. Motorcyclists don't always understand where these other drivers are at physically, mentally or emotionally.

The rules of engagement developed by this California firefighter are a good set of guidelines for us as we help everyone on the road have a good day. Being humble, following through on promises and understanding our differences can also go a long way towards making our rides safer and more enjoyable.

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!