Motorcycle safety week rides onto post
Fort Campbell Soldiers prepare to navigate through a skills exercise in April during the installation Rider Education Program's Basic Rider Course. The two-day course provides basic entry-level skills for participating Soldiers and helps develops mental and motor skills important for safe street motorcycle operation.

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- There is nothing like that feeling of freedom that one gets while riding on the open road, racing through the wind. That exhilaration, however, can be taken away in a split second due to any number of factors. Speed, collision with other vehicles, rider fatigue and indiscipline are just some of the causes that can lead to a death or a lifetime of disability. To ride means requiring skill and diligence when on the road.

Cars are built with numerous safety features in the case of an accident which causes some drivers to feel protected and invincible. Motorcycle riders, on the other hand, wear their protection and have to pay much closer attention to the road and travel conditions.

Data from the Combat Readiness Center states that there were 41 motorcycle fatalities Army-wide in fiscal year 2013 with five of those Soldiers being from Fort Campbell. According to the Installation Safety Office, as of April 22 the Army has already seen 21 motorcycle fatalities for fiscal year 2014 with three of those being Soldiers from Fort Campbell. Even further, 14 of those casualties were noncommissioned officers.

General John F. Campbell, vice chief of staff of the Army said that the number of NCOs involved in this year's motorcycle fatalities indicates that there is a failure of leadership on the issue of motorcycle safety.

"We expect our NCO Corps to enforce standards on and off duty, and set the example of discipline and professionalism," he said in a recent memo on motorcycle safety. However, he did not limit this observation to NCOs but extended it to all Army leadership.

"Whether commissioned or enlisted, leaders are not exempt from the standards, and you should not excuse risky behavior based on rank," he said.

Fort Campbell recently celebrated Installation Motorcycle Safety Week that offered five sessions of the motorcycle safety presentation and mentorship rides conducted by individual brigades. Motorcycle safety is imperative to the Army mission. "This is one week we set aside every year at Fort Campbell to focus on motorcycle safety that is open to the 101st Airborne Division and all tenants of Fort Campbell," said Mike Johnson, director of the Installation Safety Office.

With the increasing numbers of riders among its ranks, the Army is also seeing a rise in the number of fatalities from motorcycle-related accidents. The Installation Safety Office hopes that this week's observances not only raise awareness, but also prevent Soldiers from becoming a part of the growing statistics.

101st Airborne Division and Fort Campbell Command Sgt. Major Alonzo J. Smith opened the presentations with a talk about his own experiences as a rider and the importance of taking proper safety precautions. "Experience is not a failsafe," he said. "There are some things that will be out of your control when you're out on the road."

A one-hour presentation was given by Lonnie Scott of the Installation Safety Office. During the presentation, the 844 Soldiers in attendance were instructed on everything from proper selection and wearing of personal protective equipment to conduct and strategies during group riding events.

The Installation Safety Office provides motorcycle safety training year-round for riders of every skill level weekly. There is a two-day basic rider course offered every Monday/Tuesday and Thursday/Friday that combines classroom instruction and hands-on training. During this training, motorcycles and helmets are provided to attendees by the Installation Safety Office.

The Experienced Rider Course is conducted every Wednesday with participants required to use their own motorcycles and personal protective equipment. The Military Sport Bike Course is a one-day course conducted every other Wednesday.

All classes begin at 7:15 a.m. at 6074 Screaming Eagle Blvd. and are not held on federal holidays. For more information, call the Installation Safety Office at (270) 798-6992.

Soldiers can register for these courses on Army Training Requirements and Resources System or through their Schools NCO. Completion of these courses also allows Soldiers to receive discounts on personal protective equipment by presenting their motorcycle safety card at any AAFES location.

Campbell stresses that motorcycle safety should not be limited to spring and summer, but should be a year-round practice for all Soldier riders. "By doing all we can, all the time, we will lose far fewer Soldiers to preventable motorcycle accidents," he said.

Motorcycle Safety Tips

• Be Ready: mind, body, and bike. There are three ways riders should ready themselves for a ride. First, there is mental readiness. Before taking your bike out, your mind should be clear and drug and alcohol free. Second, you must be physically prepared. Protective gear is a must in protecting your body while riding a motorcycle. Third, you must check the condition of your bike. This includes fixing the parts that break, as well as regular maintenance.

• Be smooth. It takes plenty of concentration, but smooth control of your ride has plenty of specific benefits. Smooth riding includes matching the engine speed to the proper gear and road speed. Smooth riding makes for less wear and tear on your bike.

• Know where you are. Being aware of what is in your immediate space cushion will always help you guide your ride safely. Failure to be aware of your position in relation to those around you can cause dire consequences when faced with the need to make a quick lane change.

• Use your head to look where you're going. This may sound slightly remedial but it is an under-appreciated habit of a skilled rider. As you round a turn, keep your head and eyes up, looking through the corner as far as you safely can, at least three to four seconds ahead.

When your line of sight or path of travel becomes restricted, reduce your speed and use great care. Simply put, if you can't see, slow down.

• Before proceeding through any intersection, check left, check front, check right, then check left again. As you enter an intersection, whether turning or proceeding through, you need to know what your hazards are and where they can come from.

• Check your rearview mirror before you slow your speed. Too often, what is out of sight is out of mind. As you slow down for any turn or a stop, you need to be aware of what is happening behind you. This is part of your general awareness of what is happening in your surroundings on the road.

• Keep a 2-4 second following distance. When traveling on a highway, the minimum distance to keep between you and the vehicle in front of you is 2 seconds, but that is the bare minimum. To figure your distance correctly pick a point on the road, like a sign or a seam in the pavement, watch the vehicle ahead of you pass it and count the seconds it takes you to reach that point. The number of seconds you count is your following distance.

• Ride with a great attitude. When you ride, you are an ambassador of motorcycling to the general public and it is your responsibility to ride accordingly. In order to maintain a good image for fellow motorcyclists, as well as keeping yourself safe, please always use your best judgment while riding.

• Practice. The very best time to practice these habits is every time you go out for a ride. Spend at least a few minutes every ride concentrating on each of these habits and soon they will become second nature to you. Don't focus so hard on practicing that you lose sight of the job at hand. Instead, integrate practice into your normal riding routine.

Taking any of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) courses is always a good idea. If you are newer to riding, the Basic Rider Course (BRC) will give you a good foundation of riding skills and help you break any bad habits. The Experienced Rider Course (ERC) is a great idea even if you've been riding a long time. Even people who think there isn't anything left to learn about motorcycling come away with new, powerful knowledge and skills from either of these classes. The cornerstones to safe motorcycling are knowledge, training, attitude, and practice. They are what make a good rider.

Page last updated Mon June 16th, 2014 at 15:41