FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 7, 2019) - Each spring, motorists likely notice the uptick in motorcycles sharing the road with their four-wheeled vehicles. With each passing rider, we ask ourselves: "Did they bring their bikes up to a level of safe operating after the long winter hibernation period using T-CLOCS? Did they also awaken their riding skill set and get into some type of remedial training prior to hitting the road?" Safe, conscientious motorcyclists know their riding skills can parish if not used for long periods of time. This May, in conjunction with Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center recommends riders, both novice and expert, get refresher training to help stay safe on the road.

Just the facts, please
• In 2016, 4,976 motorcycle riders and passengers died in crashes, and 88,000 more suffered non-fatal injuries, according to Injury Facts, the statistical compendium on unintentional deaths and injuries published by National Safety Council. Fatalities among riders and passengers have increased nearly 3 percent from 2006, driven largely by an 8 percent increase in 2015. The following are some stats related to motorcycle fatalities in 2016:
• Motorcycles make up 3 percent of all registered vehicles and only .7 percent of all vehicle miles traveled in the United States.
• Motorcyclists accounted for 13 percent of all traffic fatalities.
• 26 percent of riders who died in a motorcycle crash were alcohol-impaired.
• 91 percent of riders who died in a motorcycle crash were male.
• 36 percent of all fatalities were 'older riders'.
• According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 80 percent of all motorcycle crashes resulted in serious injury or death.

Riders must know their limitations
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, so-called "re-entry riders," those who rode motorcycles in their 20s and decided to take it up again in their late 40s to 60s, face additional challenges. In addition to their diminished physical skills, these riders will also encounter more traffic on today's roadways, much more powerful motorcycles and an overabundance of distracted drivers. That's why it's so important riders choose a motorcycle fits their skill level, not their ego.

Proper PPE can save you
A properly fitted helmet is the most important piece of personal protective equipment a rider and their passenger can use. According to Injury Facts, helmets have been estimated to be about 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries for the rider and 41 percent for the passenger. Be sure to purchase helmets that are approved by the Department of Transportation. There are a lot of "fake" helmets on the market that offer little to no protection during accidents, so be sure to get one that is labeled DOT approved. Remember, riders should never purchase a used helmet.

Army training
The Army Progressive Motorcycle Program is designed to consistently keep motorcycle operator training current and sustain or enrich rider skills. The program consists of the following courses: Basic RiderCourse, Basic RiderCourse 2 (formerly the Experienced RiderCourse), Military Sportbike RiderCourse (within 12 months of BRC completion), Motorcycle Refresher Training (required if the Soldier's deployment is greater than 180 days, and on the individual's motorcycle), and Motorcycle Sustainment Training (every five years following completion of the ERC or MSRC). If you have questions about required training, contact your garrison safety office or visit AIRS website for information on courses at your location.

For courses in your local area, use the Motorcycle Safety Foundation website at http://www.msf-usa.org. You may also want to consider enrolling in a Motorcycle Mentorship Program at your installation. The purpose of an MMP is to establish voluntary installation-level motorcycle programs where less experienced riders and seasoned riders can create a supportive environment of responsible motorcycle riding and enjoyment.

No matter what kind of motorcycle you ride, the training you received or the PPE you wear, there are a few extras to consider before venturing out for your season-opening ride:
• Drive defensively and exercise extreme caution -- especially at intersections.
• Watch for hazards such as potholes, manhole covers, oil-slicked roadways, puddles, debris, railroad tracks and gravel. These can cause a rider to wreck if not properly addressed.
• Assume you are invisible to other motorists around you and position yourself to be seen. Never ride in someone's blind spot, which could be deadly.
• Always use your headlights -- during the day and night.
• Be courteous to other drivers. Don't weave in and out of lanes or ride on the shoulder or in between lanes.
• Wear bright and/or reflective clothing. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, leather boots that cover the ankles and full-fingered gloves all provide good protection.
• Wear your DOT-approved helmet with goggles, glasses or use a face shield that is ventilated to prevent fogging, and make sure it's clear if riding at night.
• Under any circumstance you should never drink and ride. There are too many other safer options to getting safely. Use them!

Before you grab a handful of throttle this spring and hit the open road, make sure to have your motorcycle serviced, your training current and the appropriate weather for your planned route. Remember, the most effective piece of equipment is your brain. Don't leave home without it!

Additional resources:
T-CLOCS Inspection Checklist https://safety.army.mil/Portals/0/Documents/OFF-DUTY/PMV-2/PAMPHLETSCHECKLISTS/Standard/Motorcycle_T-CLOCS_poster_web.pdf
Motorcycle Refresher Exercises https://safety.army.mil/OFF-DUTY/PMV-2-Motorcycles/Training/Motorcycle-Refresher-Exercises
Motorcycle Helmet Use in 2014 https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812110
Unsafe and Fake Helmets https://safety.army.mil/Portals/0/Documents/OFF-DUTY/PMV-2/TRAINING/Standard/UnsafeHelmets.pdf