By Michael StrasserMay 8, 2018
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (May 8, 2018) -- With temperatures rising and winter weather finally in the rearview mirror, motorcycles are becoming a common sight on the roads again. May is Motorcycle Safety Month and that's why motorcyclists from across the 10th Mountain Division (LI) gathered May 7 for the 4th annual Motorcycle Safety Day.
"This is exciting because we all share a passion and love of motorcycles," said guest speaker Dawn Fontaine, manager and events coordinator at a motorcycle dealership in Adams.
Fontaine said that two years ago after leaving post following the Motorcycle Safety Day event, she encountered a situation where she lost sight of a vehicle who had entered the on-ramp behind her.
"There was construction on the highway and all the traffic was slowing down," Fontaine said. "I'm looking everywhere for this guy in my rearview mirror, and then I look to my right and there he is, just waving at me."
Instead of slowing down, the driver was trying to merge into her lane, having just enough time to do so before running out of lane space.
"He's in a car and I'm on a bike, so I'm going to back off and let him in," she said. "But as soon as it opened up to two lanes again, I passed him and got as much space in between him and me as possible."
Motorcycle riders should never assume that other drivers will yield the right of way.
"The way our brains are wired, when a driver is looking for a space to move in traffic, they normally perceive the absence of another car and not the presence of a motorcycle," Fontaine said. "Someone who may be innocently looking to turn left is still a major and immediate threat to your life if you're on a motorcycle. Slow down, cover your brakes and get ready to take evasive action."
Fontaine said that riders can lessen the chance of accidents by being prepared to act at all times, and that means remaining alert and knowing how to execute correct crash-avoidance skills.
"Part of your job as a motorcyclist is to develop a pre-cognitive sixth sense while you are riding," she said. "Is the driver able to see you, are they looking at you, which way are the tires pointing and are they moving? Keep in mind all of this while you're riding."
Fontaine said that riders should always be playing the "what if" game to anticipate what other drivers might do and how to safely react to any scenario.
"Last, but not least, and I know this is drilled into you, but the No. 1 most preventable accident is the DUI (driving under the influence)," she said. "How fun is it going to be when you have pay those DUI fines and state fees? How fun is it going to be when you get demoted, or if you are an E-5 or above, how fun is it going to be when your career goes nowhere? The easiest way to avoid it is not to drink and ride, or drive, ever."
Michael Tulley, tactical safety officer in the Command Safety Office, said that there are roughly 300 Soldiers who ride motorcycles within the 10th Mountain Division (LI). Motorcycle Safety Day was launched on post four years ago to address an increase in fatalities due to motorcycle accidents.
According to the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center, there were 28 fatalities as a result of motorcycle accidents last year. The Fiscal Year 2017 Annual Assessment of the Army Safety Program cites that motorcycle fatalities fell 18 percent for the year, but speeding and failure to wear personal protective equipment remained the most-cited indiscipline factors in those mishap reports.
"This program started four years ago to give motorcyclists some training that they actually would like to attend, and focus one complete day to motorcycle safety," he said. "It also gave the Command a chance to address all the motorcyclists at once in one place and provide their emphasis on riding smart and doing the right thing."
During the Q&A session, the primary issue discussed was about registering for Motorcycle Safety Foundation courses. A new system is in place this year at Fort Drum where individuals no longer self-enroll for these classes. Randall Johnson, Command Safety director, said that the change is due to a 30 percent "no show" rate or higher in years' past. He said that Soldiers were either registering incorrectly or signing up for courses that would conflict with training rotations or deployments, and were not attending the course.
Now, Soldiers who require MSF training must request it through their battalion motorcycle mentor.
"The battalion motorcycle mentor is supposed to be on the in-processing checklist, as is the battalion safety officer," Tulley said. "Both of those individuals would be able to guide the Soldier to the right place to get into the program."
Tulley said that placement into MSF training will be handled with a division order of merit list (OML), similar to how Soldiers are selected for any other Army schooling.
"The only difference in the MSF order of merit list than for other schools is that this is based upon risk factors," he said. "The higher the risk factor, the higher the placement on the OML."
One motorcycle mentor in the audience advised new riders to register for BRC II immediately after finishing the first course, since there is only a one-year window to complete the secondary training. BRC II has to be renewed every five years.
For more information about motorcycle safety, riding requirements or safety courses, call (315) 772-5352. Information is available online at https://safety.army.mil/OFF-DUTY/PMV-2.aspx.