Local courses help keep bikers safe
April 6, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (April 5, 2012) -- Spring is in full swing on Fort Rucker and motorcyclists are in full bloom.
With Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month just around the corner, Fort Rucker safety officials want to make sure that Soldiers take the proper precautions and safety measures before breaking out their bikes for the spring.
"One life lost is one too many and [riding a motorcycle] is inherently risky," said Andrew Smith, lead instructor for the Traffic Safety Training Program. "When a Soldier chooses to ride a motorcycle, that's a risk that is acceptable as long as they've got the skills to perform in the challenges of today's environment."
"The first thing that Soldiers should do is take that basic rider course," said Becky Ghostley, safety specialist for the installation safety office.
The motorcycle safety course is only available to Soldiers and is required for all Soldiers before they are allowed to operate a motorcycle or consider purchasing one, she said.
Sharon Manning, director of the ISO, said that Soldiers will be taught how to properly handle a motorcycle, proper positions for turning and how to interact with traffic, while learning how to properly inspect a motorcycle to be safe for operation.
"They put you through a lot of different maneuvers," she said. "They'll have [the Soldiers] do 90-degree turns, go around curves, teach them stopping suddenly and coordination when using the back and front brake."
Along with taking the basic rider course, Soldiers must also make sure to have the proper motorcycle endorsements on their driver's license, and are required to wear the proper personal protective equipment, said Ghostley.
She said Soldiers must wear a Department of Transportation-approved helmet that is three-quarters or full-faced; wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants; and wear over-the-ankle shoes or boots that are sturdy like leather -- Army issue boots are acceptable. If the helmet that is being worn does not have a face shield, safety goggles or American National Standards Institute-approved wraparound safety sunglasses must be worn, Ghostley added.
Soldiers are also required to have progressive motorcycle training after they have taken the basic rider course, according to safety specialist.
People that are not affiliated with the Army that are operating motorcycles on the installation must also be wearing the same protective gear as those required for the Soldiers, she added.
Ghostley also explained the required continual training required to operate motorcycles on the installation, saying that within the first year after completing the basic rider course, Soldiers must take either the BRC2 or the military sport bike course.
The BRC2 is for those that ride a touring or cruising bike and the MSRC is second-stage bike training for Soldiers to learn to handle their sport bikes by practicing corning drills, stopping drills, and precise technique and accuracy to enhance safety and diminish the risk of riding a sport bike, said Smith.
"[Motorcycle training] is a continuous process and the Army has decided that this is life-long training," he said. "These are perishable skills. We want [Soldiers] to come back periodically and brush up on their skills."
Jake Simoneaux, Fort Rucker Air Traffic Controller, has been riding motorcycles since 2006 and attended the MSRC to give himself a refresher on sport bike riding safety.
"It's stuff that you forget or take for granted," he said. "Most cars aren't even looking for motorcycles on the road and that's why I drive pretty cautiously. I just like to ride [motorcycles] … for the joy of it and I've got a Family to go home to. [The course] made me aware and watch out to for others."
Smith said that motorcyclists need to drive more defensively in order to protect themselves from the other motorists on the road that may be distracted or don't notice motorcycles on the road, and that's what the courses are there to teach them.
"We have to think defense out there on two wheels," he said. "The fact of the matter is that nobody is going to be better positioned or situated to protect you than you, the rider."
The installation also offers a refresher course for redeploying Soldiers that are returning to Fort Rucker that haven't ridden in a while, said Ghostley, adding that the refresher course is also required for all Soldiers every three years as sustainment training.
Smith said it is important for people to take the opportunity to learn everything they can about motorcycle safety, whether it be from reading magazines, going to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation website or taking courses such as the MSRC, and not just for the motorcyclists, but for other drivers as well.
"What we ask is that for the folks that are on four wheels that haven't seen us [on the road in the past few] months -- please look out for us," he said. "We're out here and we just want to share the road, too."
To register for a basic rider course, visit https://apps.imcom.army.mil/AIRS.