In an effort to enforce regulations concerning Fort Bragg motorcycle rider safety, the Fort Bragg military police have begun random compliance checks for motorcyclists, who travel throughout the post.

The first of these inspections took place on Aug. 2, during the morning commute. Fort Bragg MPs inspected a total of 132 motorcycle riders. Of those inspected, 20 citations were issued for various offenses, ranging from protective posture and equipment violations to insurance and registration violations. Three motorcycles were also towed during the inspections.

According to Col. Chad McRee, Fort Bragg's director of Emergency Services and commander of the 16th MP Brigade, the motorcycle-specific compliance checks were initiated after Army safety reports revealed an increase in violations that involved motorcyclists.

"We started to see an increase of moving violations with motorcycles across the Army and there has been a heightened concern over traffic accidents involving motorcycles," McRee said. "Certainly we know that the trends go up when Soldiers are redeploying as there's a tendency for a lot more Soldiers to go out and purchase motorcycles. So we've got to continue to re-emphasize the requirements to operate a motorcycle on the installation and we hope that by reinforcing these imperatives, our Soldiers will take those same requirements that they have on post and apply them when they ride off post."

Rich Eppler, Fort Bragg's installation safety manager, said many of those violations included Soldiers wearing improper helmets, while riding their motorcycles.

The most common involved what are called novelty helmets, for which you can buy a Department of Transportation approval sticker, put it on and attempt to pass it as an approved item.

"The way you check the DOT helmet for compliance is that it has to meet certain requirements set forth by the federal motor vehicle standards," Eppler said. "There's a little label on the inside of each helmet and it provides certain information to ensure that it is DOT approved."

Eppler said a safe bet is to buy a helmet from a motorcycle dealer, most of whom are required to carry DOT approved head gear.

"The biggest thing that you're going to notice in a non-DOT approved helmet is the thickness of the inner liner. It needs to be a minimum of at least one inch of foam on the inside of the helmet," he said.

Eppler said another hazardous trend involves the use of the quick release chinstraps that are becoming popular among riders.

"(Motorcyclists) buy them at stores and they're reported to be DOT-approved, but they're not," he explained. "If you make any modification to a DOT approved helmet, then you've just nullified its safety factors by a certain variable because of the degradation of its ability to protect you.

"These little clips will easily come loose from the force of an impact," Eppler said. "I don't think a lot of people realize that it doesn't take a lot of 'G' force to snap that plastic."

Eppler said DOT approved helmets feature a heavy-duty strap that resembles a D-ring type configuration, into which the straps are inserted and cinched down to keep the helmet in place.
The compliance checks last month were set up at the Knox, All American, Randolph and Longstreet access control points, but McRee said this will not be the last time MPs will check for motorcycle safety and compliance.

"We do compliance checks where we will pull a car or a motorcycle into the compliance inspection lane and check them for registration, licensing, training and all of those types of things. So this one was not overly unique, but considering the fact that we were focused on motorcycles, hopefully sends a message that we're very serious about Soldiers doing the right thing when they're in possession of a motorcycle."

Motorcyclists who operate on Fort Bragg are required to attend the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course, which is conducted through the Fort Bragg Safety office, located on Pope Field, behind the theater.

The course teaches basic skills and safety requirements that will allow the rider to operated a motorcycle on a Department of Defense installation.

"Soldiers need to make sure that they attend the requisite training, whether it be the basic rider's course, experienced rider's course or the military sport rider course. There are procedures and guidelines to determine which course they should have and when they have to take it," explained Eppler.

He said military riders should also ensure that they have all of the appropriate protective equipment in order to ride their motorcycles on the installation.

"They need to have a Department of Transportation approved helmet, protective eyewear that is shatter-resistant, full-fingered gloves, long sleeve shirts, long pants and over-the-ankle footwear," he explained. "Those are the basic requirements for protective equipment on the installation.

"They should have their motorcycles registered and insured and they should also have the motorcycle endorsement on their driver's license, if their state requires it," Eppler added.

McRee said he was pleased with the results of the motorcycle compliance checks conducted Aug. 2.

"We were (pleased). In fact, it was very positive in the fact that the preponderance of folks who went through our compliance checks were completely in compliance. We were very, very happy with that and will continue to reinforce the good things and we'll try to point out where there are areas for improvement and we'll try to get the chain of command involved and highlight those areas," McRee said.

"These compliance checks are driven by what we see on the installation," Eppler said. "For example, people talking on cell phones. That's not authorized on a DoD installation, but you see people doing it. Unfortunately, the provost marshal can't be every where all the time, so when we start seeing a trend of a excessive problems in a certain area, they will, in turn, engage through their channels."

Eppler was careful to point out that the safety office does not enforce the regulations, but they work closely with the provost marshal's office to ensure the safety of the Fort Bragg community.

McRee said leader engagement is important when it comes to the safety of Soldiers.

"Our leaders at every level need to know what their Soldiers are doing and leaders need to know if Soldiers are buying motorcycles. They need to emphasize that if you're going to buy a motorcycle, you need to make sure that you're properly licensed and that you have the right kind of insurance, training and the proper equipment," McRee said.

He recalled situations where many leaders were not aware that their Soldiers were motorcycle owners because they stored them off post.

"It's not about catching someone doing wrong, it's about ensuring that we do things right by looking out for our Soldiers' best interest and trying to protect them," he said.

McRee said motorcycles are very vulnerable because other drivers don't see them, hear them, or know how to operate a big car or truck around them.

"Motorcyclists are at risk and we want to protect them," he said.

Soldiers are encouraged to practice the same safety standards off post, as they would while operating a motorcycle on post. Eppler said he has noticed Soldiers wearing appropriate safety on post, only to change into helmets and equipment that would be in violation of regulations once they get off post.

"We want everybody to enjoy riding their motorcycles as well as driving their vehicles, but they've got to do it safely because there's no destination worth getting in a hurry or taking short cuts and not arriving at all. The whole point is to get you to your destination safely and in one piece so that you can continue to do what you do," Eppler said.

For more information or to register for the Fort Bragg Motorcycle safety course, log on to http://www.braggmotorcyclecourse.com/registration/.

Page last updated Fri September 7th, 2012 at 11:01