WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii - The Army Hawaii community logged two motorcycle incidents during the past week - one ended in a fatality.

Though leaders work diligently to find ways to enhance motorcycle safety, ultimately, individual Soldiers and their family members must choose to be responsible and reduce their potential for accidents.

"We have to attack motorcycle safety with a lot of rigor and do more than just give safety briefings on Friday afternoon," said Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, commander, U.S. Army-Pacific.

"Not only do I expect Soldiers to attend their motorcycle training, but I expect each unit to have a mentorship program, so all leaders understand the level of training Soldiers have received and that they are complying with that training," Mixon added. "An active safety program is going to save lives and preserve combat readiness."

So far this year, three Soldiers have died in six motorcycle accidents, and two automobile accidents occurred involving Soldiers, without fatalities.

"In each of our accidents, two prominent themes come out, speed and alcohol," said Bill Maxwell, transportation safety manager, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii (USAG-HI) Installation Safety. "Speed affects reaction time, increases likelihood of fatal injury, and pushes riders out of their skill envelope where they can handle the motorcycle in more demanding situations like curves.

"Alcohol affects riders well before they reach a legal limit," Maxwell continued. "Studies commissioned by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation show that even one drink can affect a rider's ability to make sound decisions such as whether to pass a slower moving vehicle or ride at a speed commensurate to traffic."

According to the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, most motorcycle fatalities occur with Soldiers who are 23-33 years old, in the ranks E4-E6. Additionally, sport bike accidents are the number one killer, and causes usually stem from speeding, lack of control or skill with a motorcycle, or alcohol.

"Every rider must understand that despite the proliferation of air bags, crumple zones and other active safety features that have reduced the annual number of fatal accidents in automobiles, a motorcyclist's ability to survive a situation on the road comes down to skill training, the choices that they make, and the level of protective gear that they are wearing," Maxwell explained.

Locally, Soldiers must attend an Army-approved motorcycle safety course and pass an evaluation on their motorcycle, all before they are authorized to ride motorcycles. Training and evaluations are provided by the Directorate of Safety, USAG-HI, and they have helped improve motorcycle safety, Maxwell said.

This upcoming Memorial Day weekend is a sacred time for many in the armed services, and the holiday weekend offers some well-deserved "down time" for busy service members and their families to reflect and relax.

To prevent further tragedy from motorcycles, riders must adopt safe riding habits. Riders must know their bike and their surroundings and stay within posted speed limits.

"In combat, a Soldier's battle buddy is frequently the first line of defense when it comes to affecting a Soldier's decision-making process or reaction to a particular situation," said to Brig. Gen. William T. Wolf, U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center commanding general. "I am encouraging leaders, Soldiers and family members to be a battle buddy this weekend to help ensure a great start to a fun, safe summer season."

As well, riders must be mentally sharp before they hit the road.

"Mental preparedness plays a vital role," said Al Hydeman, Military Safety Foundation programs managing director during a safety event at the Pentagon, earlier this month. "It gives you the tools you need to make better judgments and respond, rather than react to any situation you might encounter in the real world."

Today, the military is hosting armed services rides for safety, which will start at several military installations on Oahu. The rides will re-emphasize motorcycle safety.

(Editor's Note: Information was used from U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center releases.)