Fort Rucker seeks to increase motorcycle safety awareness
Four students at the motorcycle safety course practice basic skills together before hitting the course March 11.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (March 14, 2013) -- So far in 2013, eight Soldiers have been killed in motorcycle accidents according to the Army's Daily Statistic Spreadsheet, and the riding season is just now approaching.

Fort Rucker officials want to ensure that if Soldiers are thinking of hitting the road or buying a motorcycle that they take all necessary precautions, according to Andrew Smith, lead instructor, traffic safety training program.

"To anybody who says that motorcycling is easy, they either don't remember or they are lying. We want our Soldiers to have long motorcycling careers as opposed to short-lived ones because, unfortunately, it is not a game and people can get hurt, and we want to avoid that at all costs," he said.

Officials said there are many factors when it comes to operating a motorcycle safely, beginning with gear.

"If riders are cycling at night, they should wear some sort of reflective gear and they should always try to wear some sort of armored jacket, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, eye protection, gloves and over-the-ankle footwear," said Sharon Manning, installation safety director, adding that shoe strings should be tucked in.

Another safely concern for motorcyclists is to drive defensively.

"The four deadly words are 'I didn't see him.' Always assume that other drivers are not going to see you," she said.

Those who ride on the back of the motorcycles need to be just as knowledgeable as the driver, according to Manning.

"Passengers should be dressed the same way as the driver and they need to understand the handling characteristics of a motorcycle, such as leaning," she said.

Spring is around the corner and showers are generally expected, so while making sure the motorcycle is in proper working condition, Manning said to always check that tires are not over or under inflated and to never ride in rough weather.

"If you plan on a long ride, always check the weather and try to always carry a rain suit in case you encounter an unexpected storm," she said. "Be very careful when it begins to rain because the rain hasn't had time to clear the oily film off the road."

Now that the weather is beginning to become perfect for riding, many cyclists will start to journey to the beaches of Florida. Although the state does not require cyclists to wear helmets, Army regulation does.

"When you are a Soldier, you will wear a helmet while riding, you should want to anyway. People are made famous for thinking, 'It's not going to happen to me.' You can be the safest rider and wear all the equipment and still be in an accident where you are seriously injured," she said.

Manning also had a few tips for people who are planning to go to local beaches and rent scooters.

"Sand can cover many roads and it is hard to control the vehicle, so be sure to wear a helmet, even though it doesn't look cool, because you're not only probably inexperienced but also wearing the wrong gear such as flip flops and shorts," she said. "Plus, being at the beach you have to contend with all the other activity going on, such as distracted drivers."

For the rest of the community who sticks to four wheels instead of two, Manning asks them to always be on the lookout for cyclists.

"In this area we have a huge number of riders. If you see one, have a little more courtesy on the road. Don't tailgate them and give them more than one car length between you," she said.

The riders that Smith sees go through the safety course are "responsible and fun, not dangerous risk takers" and said that the safety course has saved money and lives.

"For a relatively low investment in the training, we are preserving the thousands of dollars the Army has invested in Soldiers," he said.

The motorcycle safety courses are mandatory for riders. There are three types: the basic rider course, the experienced rider course, and the military sport bike course. Manning suggests taking the class sooner rather than later.

"We have a large number of classes available during the spring, but as soon as the weather gets hotter it will not be as easy to get into a class because they are going to fill up," she said.

Soldiers are notified by their safety officer when they have to take the courses and registration for each course is online.

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Page last updated Fri March 15th, 2013 at 09:55