By Chris Frazier, U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety CenterMay 8, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 8, 2013) - Army officials are hopeful that enhancements to a mandated motorcycle safety training course will better target the No. 1 killer of Soldier riders.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation, or MSF, recently updated its introductory training course -- the Basic Rider Course -- with new classroom content focused on rider behavior, risk awareness and risk management, said Ray Ochs, Ph.D., vice president of training systems for the MSF. The course previously focused more on the fundamentals of riding than the decision-making aspect.
"Safe riding is more of a skill of the eyes and mind than the hands and feet," Ochs said. "So it's more important to get to the behavior aspects of what it is to be a safe rider. Instead of just emphasizing skill, which we still do, we want to get into what people think about when they ride. We want to try to get them to see the value of making safety a priority."
The addition of the Basic Rider Course's or BRC's, more robust behavioral component came at the urging of the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center's Driving Directorate, in hopes of tackling rider indiscipline. As of May 1, a majority of fiscal 2013's motorcycle fatalities involved indiscipline, according to USACR/Safety Center statistics.
"Speeding and other forms of reckless riding, neglecting to wear personal protective equipment, failure to complete required training and operating a motorcycle while under the influence are among the most common indiscipline-based errors Soldier riders make," said Brig. Gen. Timothy J. Edens, director of Army Safety and commanding general, USACR/Safety Center. "The loss of a Soldier to a preventable accident that was his or her own fault is devastating, so rider indiscipline is a problem we must confront."
While motorcycle fatalities have declined so far this fiscal year, USACR/Safety Center Command Sgt. Maj. Richard D. Stidley fears those numbers will rise this summer given historical trends.
"As warmer weather arrives and more riders take to the road, their risk is going to increase," Stidley said. "Managing it is key to staying alive for another riding season."
Ochs believes the improvements to the BRC will not only benefit novice riders, but more experienced motorcyclists as well. All military personnel are required to complete an MSF course to ride a motorcycle both on and off the installation.
"There has to be something more substantial than passing a knowledge test about how a motorcycle works," Ochs said. "So the course itself goes way beyond any license testing that most motor vehicle departments require, and that's something we feel is a responsibility. At the MSF, we take our middle name seriously, that 'safety' part of it. We're going to do everything we can to keep riders safe."
To help speed the release of the new BRC, the Army offered the MSF several locations to field test it. Testing has already been conducted at a West Virginia Army National Guard facility, and recently, Fort Rucker became the first active-duty installation to host the training.
Ochs said the MSF is aiming at a nationwide release by mid-summer.
"We can't thank the Army enough for providing the opportunity to test (the new BRC)," Ochs said. "It's going to be released a lot sooner than we thought we could get it done."