FORT HOOD, Texas - While motorcycle safety month doesn’t officially hit until May, it’s always a good time to discuss motorcycle safety.
March 20 formalized the beginning of the spring season, which brings with it warmer temperatures, sunny skies and perfect riding conditions.
While motorcyclists everywhere gear up for this time of year, it’s paramount that riders take steps to ensure safety and mitigate the dangers they risk while being on the roads. In the past decade, there have been 36 fatalities and countless injuries resulting from motorcycle accidents in the Fort Hood community.
“Most of the motorcycle accidents that occur around here are from two things: excessive speed, and a person not seeing you,” Sgt. Maj. Joey Thompson, motorcycle mentor for III Corps, and Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, said. “One is something you can’t control, which is how fast you are going; the other one is part of why motorcycles are dangerous, because other vehicles don’t see you.”
While Fort Hood mandates certain personal protective equipment, or PPE, while riding, reflective gear not a requirement. Thompson says it is a very good idea, however.
“I highly encourage everybody to find protective gear they like; especially reflective,” Thompson remarked. “There’s good looking gear out there; it doesn’t have to be for us (at Fort Hood), but does it help, absolutely.”
Thompson said daytime headlights now come standard on vehicles because it increases visibility, so other drivers can see vehicles better, similar to motorcyclists wearing reflective gear.
“It all comes down to risk reduction, and how much risk are you willing to take on yourself,” Thompson stated.
One of the ways Fort Hood ensures riders are being safe are through its motorcycle licensing requirements. While all riders must have a valid state driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement, military riders have addition training requirements per the Army Traffic Safety Training Program.
Any military rider, whether experienced or not, must attend a Basic Rider Course before they can ride a motorcycle. Within 12 months, they must have also attended and completed an advanced rider course. The advanced courses are tailored to the type of bike the Soldier will be riding. Additionally, any Soldier returning from a minimum six-month deployment must complete a training refresher before operating a motorcycle.
The Basic Rider Course is not only a great way to ensure Soldiers are experienced riders, but it’s also ideal for first time riders who want to learn how to operate a motorcycle but have never done so.
Spc. Peyton Dale, a trooper with 1st Cavalry Division’s Horse Cavalry Detachment, is currently attending the Basic Rider Course as a brand new rider.
“The course is awesome. They give you a lot of information and teach you the basics of riding a motorcycle and the safety requirements involved in just a few days,” Dale stated. “The Army really is great. First they taught me how to ride a horse, and now they are teaching me how to ride a motorcycle.”
Because the courses are mandated for all Soldier riders, they are at no cost to the Soldier and can be scheduled through their unit Digital Training Management System representative. There are typically two Basic courses offered weekly, with advanced courses scheduled throughout the month. Soldiers are provided a motorcycle during the basic course, and just need to provide their own PPE.
Required PPE for military riders include a Department of Transportation certified helmet; goggles or eye protection if the helmet does not have a full face cover; long-sleeve shirt or jacket and long pants; shoes that provide sturdy protection over the foot and ankle; and full-fingered leather or abrasion-resistant gloves.
Overall, having the skills, wearing the proper equipment, and ensuring a motorcycle is in suitable working order all work together to help any rider be as safe as they can while on the road. Practice for new riders is vital, especially when it comes to cornering and riding in slow-speed/high-traffic areas such as coming through a gate on post. Choosing to wear gear such as a reflective vest that may not necessarily be required but helps to mitigate risk is always smart choice for any motorcycle riders.
For more information on the ATSTP visit https://home.army.mil/hood/index.php/units-tenants/Garrison-1/safety-office/atstp.