By Julie Shelley, Directorate of Communication and Public Affairs, U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety CenterMay 5, 2014
While Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month kicked off nationally May 1, Army officials are urging leaders across the force to treat rider safety as a year-round imperative in response to rising PMV-2 fatalities.
As of May 4, Soldier motorcycle deaths were up 56 percent from the same date in fiscal 2013, a marked contrast to the decline seen at the end of last year.
"An increase is worrying in its own right, but this year's is exceptionally so considering the long winter we've had," said Brig. Gen. Timothy J. Edens, director of Army Safety and commanding general, U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center. "Riding season has been delayed for many Soldiers, yet we're already looking at more fatalities. With spring here and summer just around the corner, we've got to get a handle on things."
Indiscipline remains the single-greatest threat to Army motorcycle riders, according to USACR/Safety Center statistics. Speeding, alcohol, lack of training or personal protective equipment, or a combination thereof have been cited in at least eight of the 15 fatalities reported this fiscal year.
"With the resources the Army provides our motorcycle riders, it's astounding that we're still losing Soldiers to indiscipline," Edens said. "There's no excuse for it; progressive training, mentorship programs and many other tools are available to help our riders stay safe. This is where leaders need to step in and hold their Soldiers accountable to the standard."
Adding to the complexity of the issue, though, is leader involvement in motorcycle accidents. Using May 4 as a baseline, 11 of the 15 Soldiers who have died on motorcycles this fiscal year have been leaders at the rank of sergeant and above.
"It's not just junior Soldiers who need to be held accountable, it's our leaders too," said USACR/Safety Center Command Sgt. Maj. Leeford C. Cain. "Curbing indiscipline starts with leadership. Whether it's passive noncompliance through lax enforcement or active, willful disregard for the standard, the end result is the same. We're failing our Soldiers if we don't correct this problem now."
While indiscipline is the top issue facing Army motorcyclists today, both Edens and Cain agreed riders must assume personal ownership of their safety by taking their training seriously and knowing their limits.
"Even in accidents where another driver is at fault, we have to ask if there was something the rider could've done differently," Edens said. "That's a big question in our training programs, because there are always going to be outliers like distracted drivers and wildlife. We want our Soldiers to be as prepared for and responsive to those potentialities as possible."
Several tools, including an updated Motorcycle Mentorship Program guidebook, are available at https://safety.army.mil and will be highlighted during May. Cain encouraged leaders and safety professionals to keep visiting the site, since new tools and programs are constantly being added to the Army's motorcycle safety arsenal.
"Many, many of our Soldiers can ride year-round thanks to the Army's various locations," he said. "It's time to stop thinking of motorcycles as a spring and summer problem. Like the rest of safety, it's a 24/7 commitment."