Officials emphasize motorcycle safety across force

  • Published
  • By Carmen L. Gleason
  • American Forces Press Service
With motorcycle fatalities on the rise over the past two years in the Defense Department, senior military officials are making sure that servicemembers and civilians are keeping safety in mind while hitting the roads this summer.

The Army took the lead by hosting the two-day National Capital Region Motorcycle Safety Event at the Pentagon that finished May 18 for both riders and military commanders, culminating in a group ride along the scenic George Washington Parkway.

"The Army had 48 motorcycle fatalities last year," said Jim Patton, who works in the Army's Environment, Safety and Occupational Health Office. "That was a huge wake-up call for us to get the word out on increased safety before the riding season picks up."

Other branches of the military are experiencing similar numbers in fatalities. In fact, there were 261 traffic-accident fatalities in the Defense Department in 2006 and 94 of those involved motorcycle riders.

The Pentagon's two-day event was designed to decrease motorcycle accidents by showcasing safety initiatives with booths, speakers panels, skills demonstrations, and a "rodeo," in which participants could compete in applying skills needed in heavy traffic scenarios.

During the event, safety representatives from all services mentored inexperienced motorcyclists and promoted awareness to military leaders so they can inform riders within their units.

"This is an effort for us to lead by example," said Chief Warrant Officer Dan Curry, who serves as the assistant to the military training task force chairman. "This is a (Defense Department) effort that's being sent down through all services, that we're serious about safety and we do care.

"This is a great opportunity to protect our forces," he said. "Our finest assets are our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and civilians; they're what makes this military what it is."

The focus of the event was for everyone to recognize there are dangers in motorcycle riding but that risks can be mitigated and lives can be saved, CWO Curry said.

"Doing things safely is no accident," he said. "We're going to bring folks in who share a passion, but who also share something else, and that's safety."

Although the Army hosted this event, Mr. Patton said he hopes other services will host similar events in the future.

"Our goal is to have a top-notch event as a model for others to follow," Mr. Patton said.