Motorcycle riding is an exciting and enjoyable hobby, but it can also be very risky and dangerous. Servicemembers, civilians and their families stationed in Europe must make safety their number one priority when they choose to operate a motorcycle here.

Safe motorcycle riding includes wearing the proper protective clothing and equipment, seeking out opportunities for education and training, and following DOD and Army regulations as well as host nation and local laws.

Army accident rates show that motorcycle operators are at a much higher risk of being killed in an accident when compared to travelers in a passenger vehicle, said Scott Livingston, a safety and health specialist with U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern.

"Overall our motorcycle rider population in the Army is very low, however, they generally account for almost one third of our traffic deaths," Livingston said.

For example, out of 109 Army private motor vehicle fatalities in fiscal year 2009, 32 fatalities were attributed to motorcycle accidents, Livingston said.

Europe is a very challenging environment for motorcycle riders, especially new and novice riders with little or no experience, said Livingston. Based on this, only DOD-sponsored servicemembers, civilians and their family members with prior experience and a current motorcycle endorsement on their U.S. driver's license can obtain a U.S. Army Europe motorcycle license.

Proper training and personal protective equipment is critical, said Livingston. Unlike an automobile, motorcycle accidents are a lot less forgiving. When an accident is unavoidable, a motorcyclist's personal protective equipment can protect them from serious injury or death.

Personal protective equipment includes a helmet certified by the Department of Transportation; impact or shatter resistant goggles, wraparound glasses or a full-face shield; long sleeved shirt or jacket; long trousers; sturdy footwear, leather boots or over the ankle shoes; and full fingered gloves or mittens designed for motorcycle use.

A brightly colored upper outer garment should be worn during daylight hours, and a highly reflective upper outer garment should be worn during the hours of limited visibility.

Every person who owns a motorcycle or is thinking about buying a motorcycle should seek out opportunities to improve their awareness and their capabilities. Motorcycle riders should ask their unit leaders about starting up a local motorcycle mentorship and safety program, and volunteer for additional training at every opportunity.

By regulation, the Army requires that all Soldiers who operate motorcycles, both on and off post, attend the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Basic Rider Course. Chapter 11-9b of Army Regulation 385-10 states that commanders may also offer the MSF's Experienced Rider Course in addition to the basic course, but not in lieu of the basic course. However, anyone who has documentation of prior completion of the Experienced Rider Course will be in compliance with the Army standard for motorcycle training and will not be required to attend the basic course.

Motorcycle riders should visit the U.S. Army Combat Readiness and Safety Center's POV and Motorcycle Safety website at and the center's Motorcycle Mentorship Program website at for more information. Another resource for motorcycle riders is the Motorcycle Safety Foundation at For motorcycle licensing and training information in your local area, contact the Driver's Testing Station and Safety Office.

All things considered, operating a motorcycle can be very risky and dangerous - but armed with the proper training, knowledge and gear - the risks and dangers can be significantly reduced.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16