By J.D. LeipoldNovember 19, 2008
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 20, 2008) - The 210 Soldiers killed in accidents during fiscal year 2008 included 51 who were riding motorcycles off duty.
While Brig. Gen. William T. Wolf, who heads the Army Combat Readiness/Army Safety Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., is concerned with the all-around safety of Soldiers both on-and off-duty, he said the Army's loss of Soldiers due to motorcycle accidents was a 24-percent increase from FY07. He noted the deaths were predominantly related to excessive speed on sport motorcycles.
"Our young generation of Soldiers are looking at motorcycles because they're easy to get, very easy to purchase and they're cheaper than most cars, and frankly, they're fast, which young Soldiers just love," Wolf said. "Soldiers take the uniform off or leave for the day and they sometimes get this feeling of invincibility. Some of that is from numerous deployments downrange and the optempo which can make them feel complacent and overconfident."
Wolf said the Army will be pushing out a new sportbike course through the Installation Management Command at all posts this year.
"I think it will go a long way toward teaching Soldiers what they will be getting into as well as teaching them the correct techniques and procedures when they go out on the road, so they understand the bike's limitations as well as their own," Wolf said.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation's military SportBike RiderCourse was created in collaboration with the Army and Navy safety centers to address the increasing number of military personnel who are involved in sport bike crashes.
The one-day course consists of three hours of classroom interactive lessons and four hours of on-cycle range time and is taught MSF certified instructors.
The classroom segment focuses on the behavioral aspects of riding, such as attitude and personal risk assessment and includes discussions about braking proficiency, cornering techniques, traction management characteristics unique to sport bikes. The riding session builds on these topics by providing riders the opportunity to develop and improve skills in braking, cornering and swerving.
Anyone, not just Soldiers who want to ride on post, must have attended an MSF-approved basic course and show proof of completion. Riders Armywide are also required to wear personal safety equipment such as gloves, long-sleeved shirts, long trousers, impact- or shatter-resistant eyewear, boots, Department of Transportation-approved helmet and a high-visibility upper garment by day and a retro-reflective garment at night. The MSF basic and advanced courses are already offered free-of-charge at Army installations.
Wolf also encourages Soldiers to use the online Travel Risk Assessment Planning System tool offered through the safety center. It was designed specifically for Soldiers and civilians using their vehicles or motorcycles while on leave or on temporary duty orders. In just the last year, nearly 600,000 assessments have been made by Soldiers using the system, which has now been adopted by all the military services.
"We provide TRiPS on the off-duty side so Soldiers can utilize it in planning their leave or time off, in planning their trips and ensuring that they reduce that risk to the lowest level, just as they would in preparation for a convoy down-range," Wolf said. "We've found in past years folks who use TRiPS have a four-time greater chance of not having an accident when they utilize these tools."