As the scorching heat starts to die down with the end of the summer and the milder days of early fall approach, while on the road riders and drivers alike need to be aware of the tenets of motorcycle safety.
According to Naval Safety Center (NSC) data, over 30 service members died in Fiscal Year 2011 due to mishaps on or related to a motorcycle. Indeed, odds are against those who ride motorcycles: the odds of dying from a mishap while on duty is only one in 23,134, one in 17,359 while in a car, but in stark contrast, the odds of dying during a mishap while on a motorcycle jump to one in only 2,954.
While keeping these statistics in mind, one might ask what can be done by motorcyclists to reduce those odds. The most obvious answer is one this is actually required by the Navy, not just recommended: education. The Naval Safety Center reports that 63 percent of the fatal accidents that occurred from FY'07-2011 involving Sailor motorcyclists were those who lacked initial training or mandatory follow-up training.
"One of the most important things that Sailors and other riders need to keep in mind is that riding a motorcycle requires being a continuous student," said Daniel Moore, lead instructor for Naval District Washington's (NDW) motorcycle safety courses. "If you go out on deployment, when you come back take another course before you ride your motorcycle just to brush off the cobwebs."
All Sailors, and that includes ones riding off-base, are required to take the Basic Riders Course (BRC), a course designed for one with little or no riding experience) or above (courses such as the BRC2, Military Sportbike Riders Course) prior to operating a motorcycle, DoD civilians are also required to do so if they intend to ride on a DoD installation.
These courses are generally offered at least once a month during the summer at various installations; for the NDW area, these bases include Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren, Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Joint Base Andrews, and Fort Meade (Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling's training area is due to be repaired.)
Sailors and DoD civilians riding on base must also renew their certifications every three years. According to Moore, being a "lifelong learner" is one of the keys to staying safe as one can never be too properly trained. In 2011, 46 percent of the Navy and Marine Corps sport-bike deaths were due to the rider losing control of the bike in daylight and good weather. This, according to the NSC, indicates that they were operating a motorcycle that they simply did not have the skills or experience to control.
"[Sailors] come back from overseas and they have a fistful of money, and go into dealers and buy motorcycles with no training," said Moore. "A mistake people get into is that they buy too much of a bike for their skill level; you have to grow in your abilities as you grow in the size of the motorcycle."
Automobile and truck drivers have a responsibility to keep the road safe for motorcyclists, and themselves, as well. The United States Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) has a list of the top ten things all car and truck drivers should know about motorcycles located online at http://msf-usa.org/downloads/Motorist_Awareness_tips.pdf.
A few of the highlights of this list include always maintaining vigilance while driving and especially around motorcycles: they are smaller, and therefore harder to see/blend into blind spots easier so one must always be aware of his or her surroundings, and one should always give motorcycles a wide berth while on the road.
"When a motorcycle is in motion, don't think of it as motorcycle; think of it as a person," implores the MSF.
Riding a motorcycle can be a thrilling and worthwhile experience, but it should never be thrills at the expense of safety: Drive and ride safe, avoid distractions, and maintain proper gear including a helmet. Super simple stuff, but it makes sense.
For more information on motorcycle safety, visit the Naval Safety Center at http://www.public.navy.mil/navsafecen/ or the Motorcycle Safety Foundation at www.msf-usa.org.
To inquire about NDW's requisite motorcycle training courses, call (540) 653-2340.