By Tim Cherry, Belvoir EagleMay 10, 2013
To help prevent vehicle accidents and fatalities, motorcyclists and motorists are reminded to share the road during and after the installation's observance of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month in May.
The awareness month stresses that both motorcyclists and automobile motorists obey driving regulations and laws when operating their vehicles. This safety advice is particularly timely as motorcycle fatalities accounted for 14 percent of total highway deaths in 2011, despite motorcycle registrations representing only about 3 percent of all vehicles in the U.S., according to Chris McCormick, Installation Safety Office acting director.
"The Fort Belvoir Installation Safety Office reminds motorists and motorcyclists alike to 'share the road' conscientiously and courteously to help prevent motorcycle crashes, which remain one of the most prevalent causes of death and injury in the Washington D.C. area," McCormick said.
Soldiers and civilians can reduce the risk of injury by wearing proper personal protection equipment such as a fastened helmet and long-sleeve jacket. PPE must meet the Department of Defense Instruction 6055.4 and Army 385-10 approved requirements. In addition to a helmet and a long-sleeve jacket, DoD requirements include, eye protection such as goggles or a full-face shield, sturdy shoes, full-fingered gloves and long trousers.
The Army Safety Program Regulation 385-10 encourages, but does not require, motorcyclists to wear fluorescent or retro-reflective safety vests or jackets while riding. However, garrison officials still recommend riders wear the vests and any equipment that increases rider visibility to other motorists. That visibility reduces the chances of an accident.
Army accident data shows that speeding and other forms of reckless riding, neglecting to wear personal protection equipment and failure to complete required training are among the most common indiscipline-based errors Soldier riders make, according to a press release by the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center. Soldiers and civilians are strongly encourage to follow DoD and Army regulations because doing so can save their lives if they're ever involved in an accident.
"Motorcyclists are about 30 times more likely to die in a crash than passenger vehicle occupants," McCormick said. "Riders should obey all traffic laws and be properly licensed, alert to other drivers, conspicuous at all times and never ride impaired or distracted."
Army, DoD and Belvoir regulations also require government-owned and privately owned motorcycles, mopeds and motor scooters, to have headlights turned on at all times except where prohibited by military mission, state or local laws. Due to their distractive qualities, hand-held devices, headphones or earphones are also prohibited while riding or driving on Fort Belvoir.
Once on the roads, McCormick said motorcyclists should drive responsibly to ensure safety. Riders should give themselves space to operate their vehicles and not drive parallel in the same lane with other riders. Motorcyclists should also pay close attention to surrounding vehicles' locations at all times and anticipate reckless driving or potential road hazards, such as debris and potholes. It's also important for riders to use turn signals for every turn or lane change.
"Be especially alert at intersections, watch for vehicles that may unexpectedly turn in front of you or pull out from a side street or driveway," said Patricia Borel, Occupational Health and Safety specialist. "Treat other motorists with courtesy and respect."
The garrison's safety office recognized Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month by providing literature on safety topics to community members. The office also encourages novice and experienced riders to improve their skills by attending Motorcycle Safety Foundation courses.
Active-duty Soldiers and Reserve or National Guard Soldiers on active duty are required to complete the MSF Basic Riders Course, offered free on military installations, before operating a motorcycle.
The two-day course, sponsored by the Army Traffic Safety Training Program, teaches basic riding fundamentals such as turning, stopping and balancing.
Belvoir's class is typically offered every other week at the 23rd Naval Mobile Construction Battalion on Stuart Road. The basic course is not a licensing course and is not a substitute for the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles road test. DoD civilians, Family members and retirees are not eligible to take the class but are encouraged to take training courses offered by other organizations.
Northern Virginia Community College, for instance, offers a basic rider course which is open to anyone for a $150 registration fee. The 15-hour program runs from mid-March through mid-November each year.
Reducing motorcycle fatalities is also a task for motorists, McCormick said.
Motorists should remember a motorcycle is a vehicle with the same rights and privileges of any other motor vehicle, so motorists should respect their right of way and their lane space. Motorists should also routinely check for motorcycles by viewing their car mirrors and blind spots before entering or exiting a traffic lane or intersection. Motorists should also signal their lane changing or merging intentions before they conduct the maneuver.
"Drivers should always be on the lookout for motorcyclists," McCormick said. "Drivers must be aware that a motorcycle, as one of the smallest vehicles on the road, can be 'hiding' in your vehicle's blind spots. Always check blind spots, use mirrors and signal before changing lanes or making turns."
Visit www.belvoir.army.mil/safety/mc.asp for more information or to register for the Basic Riders Course.
Riders can view the updated DoD regulation at www.dtic.mil/whs/
Riders can view the Army regulation at www.apd.army.mil/pdffiles/r385_10.pdf.
For additional information on motorcycle safety, go to www.nhtsa.gov/Safety/Motorcycles.