Motorcycle safety is for everyone

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. William Banton
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
For many Hurlburt Field Airmen, the onset of summer means more chances to experience the joys and exhilaration of riding their motorcycles.

To help keep Airmen safe and emphasize the need to mitigate risks while riding, the Air Force declared 2011 the Year of Motorcycle Safety, asking every member of the Air Force to focus on and commit to motorcycle safety.

Since Oct. 1, 2010, four Hurlburt Field Airmen have lost duty time, and a fifth Airman lost his life as a result of motorcycle accidents.

"These losses are unacceptable for our Air Force," wrote Gen. Philip Breedlove, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and Terry Yonkers, Assistant Secretary for installations, in their 2011 Year of Motorcycle Safety dual-signed memorandum, April 19. "The Air Force has already suffered one permanent total disability and five fatal motorcycle mishaps [this year]."

Additionally, motorcycle fatalities have risen 150 percent Air Force-wide from January to March 2011, compared to the same period last year, according to the Air Force Safety Center, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.

"A senseless death can sometimes hit a unit harder than a combat death," said Master Sgt. Walter Warren, 4th Special Operations Squadron first sergeant, regarding losses from motorcycle accidents. "People should really think about their value before taking risks."

Capt. Eric Fancher, 4th SOS unit safety representative, has these helpful tips for units:

1) Remind riders, on a regular basis, to be mindful of safety precautions when on the road.

2) Pair more experienced riders with new riders to help provide instruction.

3) Provide a venue for riders to discuss issues, such as road conditions, to stay safe.

For motorcyclists to stay safe, motorists need to be aware of what riders require from them.

For example, road conditions that are minor annoyances to other vehicles may pose major hazards to motorcyclists. According to the 1st Special Operations Wing safety office, drivers should allow more distance between vehicles when following a motorcycle so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.

Also, motorists should watch to be sure the motorcycle is going to turn when its signal is on before proceeding. Motorcycle turn signals often have to be manually shut off, and frequently riders forget to shut them off after turning.

The Air Force mandates that all military members complete a motorcycle rider's safety courses. To support this mandate the 1st SOW reimburses riders for the cost of the course.

The Air Force also mandates in AFI 91-207, The U.S. Air Force Traffic Safety Program, that all Airmen riding on or off base wear a helmet designed to meet or exceed Department of Transportation standards, goggles, protective clothing, foot protection, brightly colored outer upper garments and, at night, a reflective upper garment.

In addition, all individuals, military or civilian, must comply with all Air Force regulations while riding on base.

Following all safety laws and wearing the appropriate safety equipment can save lives.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, statistics show riders who wear helmets have a 29 percent better chance of surviving a crash than riders without helmets.

"Riders should consider the harm being unsafe can cause, not only to yourself but your family, friends, co-workers and others on the road," said Captain Fancher.

To find out how to be reimbursed for the training course, or for more motorcycle safety information please contact your unit safety representative or call the 1st SOW safety office at 884-7497.

(Master Sgt. Amaani Lyle, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs, contributed to this story)