By Capt. Michael Geneser
May marks both the unofficial start of summer and National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. As the weather heats up, an increasing number of people will dust off their bikes and hit the road. With the influx of two-wheeled motorists, and the fact that motor vehicle accidents are the leading non-combat cause of death among service members it is imperative that all drivers take appropriate precautions to ensure everyone’s safety on the roads.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration publishes statistics to provide context on the importance of motorcycle safety:
— From 2004 to 2017, annual motorcycle fatalities have ranged from 4,028 to 5,312.
— 591 Missourians died and another 3,500 were seriously injured from 2012 to 2017 while riding a motorcycle.
— In that stretch, motorcycles accounted for only 2 percent of all registered vehicles while simultaneously representing only 0.7 percent of the total miles driven. Despite these facts, 14 percent of all fatal road accidents involved motorcycles.
To prevent accidents, the NHTSA published several precautions cyclists can take to protect themselves while on the road:
— Never drink and drive.
— Do not speed.
— Drive defensively. Half of all collisions occur at intersections and involve non-motorcycle drivers violating a cyclist’s right of way.
— Look out for obstructions on the road like potholes, manhole covers and oil slicks.
— Bright, reflective clothing will help other drivers see you in periods of limited visibility.
However, in the event that a collision does occur, investing in the appropriate protective equipment will often be the difference between life and death. In 2017, 1,908 cyclists who died were not wearing a helmet.
The NHTSA has found wearing a Department of Transportation approved helmet is estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries. These helmets are emblazoned with the DOT emblem and are required for wear by all service members. Additionally, one should purchase a ventilated, full-coverage helmet to provide maximum protection and prevent fogging. In lieu of a full-coverage helmet with a face shield, goggles or wraparound, ballistic glasses can adequately protect the eyes. Finally, a cyclist should wear sturdy, over-the-ankle footwear, a jacket, and gloves to cover all exposed skin and prevent road rash.
In addition to these safety measures, the military takes additional steps to protect Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines on motorcycles.
Most units have internal motorcycle safety programs. These programs are run by a senior leader in the unit who also rides a motorcycle. This individual schedules and facilitates rides for other cyclists in the units during the duty day. The rides serve to increase rider proficiency within the unit to prevent future accidents.
Every installation offers the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic Rider Courses in order to provide a foundation for service members interested in riding a bike. These courses must be completed within 60 days of purchasing a motorcycle. Family members or DoD civilians interested in taking the BRC can go online to https://training.msf-usa.org or contact the Waynesville Career Center to enroll.
While COVID-19 mitigations protocols are in place, many regularly accessible courses are temporarily unavailable. As a result, all Motorcycle Safety Foundation training cards that have expired or will expire due to these cancellations will remain valid through October 1, or until training can be scheduled.
For more information on motorcycle safety, visit the NHTSA website at https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/motorcycle-safety, or contact the Fort Leonard Wood Safety Office at 573.596.0131, ext. 60116.