Motorcycle Safety: skills and habits that save lives
July 1, 2009
CAMP MOBILE SOUTH KOREA - To paraphrase Aristotle: We are what we repeatedly do. Safety on a motorcycle, then, is not an act, but a habit.
The best motorcycle in the world will end up in a wrecking yard unless one learns how to use it. To help us program ourselves for motorcycle safety, the Army offers basic riders courses and experienced riders courses for persons new to motorcycles and scooters, and those well-experienced through the CFPS Corp. whose business it is to teach traffic safety programs.
"This course is about educating Soldiers, Civilians and Family members who want to ride two-wheeled vehicles," said Gregory Deschapell, Army Traffic Safety Training Program lead instructor. "Because Soldiers and those working for the Department of Defense found they had more money to spend and could afford expensive toys like motorcycles and because we had a large spike in the costs of fuel, drove people to buy different modes of transportation to save money. This in turn led to a spike in two-wheeled vehicle accidents."
Deschapell explains people who bought motorcycles because of the costs of fuel are now riding for recreation.
"Once people experience the exhilaration of riding a motorcycle, they are not likely to stop riding," he said.
When the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published their 2007 Traffic Safety Annual Assessment, they found a curious fact. Pedestrians and motorcyclist shared the same increase in accidents throughout the United States. When all other traffic accidents had numbers in negative digits, motorcyclists and pedestrians had more than a 15 percent increase.
"When the Army sees a trend in accidents happening in any area of safety, they focus on that trend to educate the Army Family about the factors causing accidents within those trends," Deschapell said. "The serendipity of this motorcycle training is Soldiers, Civilians and Family members can actually learn to ride motorcycles the safe and correct way, provided they can already ride a bicycle, so there will be no balancing issues."
For those who wish to ride a motor scooter, the training is the same as for motorcycles, he explained.
"Every student who comes to the course signs a statement acknowledging the regulations in 190-1, which prescribes what safety gear, is required to ride a motorcycle, and they will comply with regulations while riding in the Republic of Korea," Deschapell said. "The operation of a motorcycle is inherently risky. You can't take all the risk from it because you do not have the protective barrier a car affords. By taking an approach from a safety point of view, wearing protective gear and applying the principles taught in this class, one can significantly reduce the risk of having an accident."
Protective gear for motorcycles and scooters includes: a Department of Transportation approved helmet, full-fingered gloves, long-sleeved shirt, long pants, shoes or boots covering the ankles, and a high visibility reflective vest.
The Traffic Safety Training Team trains all who are interested in learning how to safely ride and abide by regulations in sessions given throughout the year. Training given in military garrisons on the Korean peninsula is accepted and fills motorcycle safety requirements in all states.
"Our team in Korea is made of former Soldiers," Deschapell explained. "It is about getting the point across to the student. We are more concerned about our students getting the point and learning how to ride safely than just filling a requirement."