FORT LEE, Va. – Oil and filter changed; check.
Tires properly inflated; check.
Battery and wiring inspected; check.
Okay, your motorcycle is ready for another season on the road, but are you?
Pilots have to keep current on their flying skills. Doctors, lawyers, accountants, Soldiers and other professionals participate in continuing education to stay sharp in their fields. So, motorcycle riders most certainly should be assessing what they’ve done lately to develop and maintain their mental and physical prowess on two wheels.
It’s an undisputable fact that riding a bike requires special skills beyond those needed to drive a car. More importantly, the consequences for making a mistake on a motorcycle can be much more severe than in an automobile.
What many riders don’t realize is their skills in the most critical maneuvers – keeping eyes up and well ahead, cornering, braking and swerving – are not improved simply by putting in the miles. The only way to develop and maintain proficiency is to practice in a controlled environment and, preferably, under the watchful eye of a motorcycle safety instructor who can assess performance and offer corrective guidance as needed.
Motorcycle Safety Foundation research indicates most accidents – around two-thirds of them – are the result of rider error and not attributable to other motor vehicle operators. Reckless activities such as speeding, weaving between lanes to get around slower traffic and showboating top the unfortunate list of irresponsible activities. Many crashes also have resulted from following too close to other vehicles, failure to “read” hazardous road conditions such as gravel and potholes, riding with one or both hands off the handlebars, and distracted driving.
Perception also can be a problem, according to the Army Safety program.
“One misconception is that if a rider has owned a motorcycle for a long time, regardless of it only being ridden a couple of months each year, they are an experienced rider,” read a portion of an article on the organization’s website. “Similarly, just because a Soldier rides a few miles to work and home every day on the same route for a couple of years doesn’t make him or her an experienced rider. These are examples of experienced owners, not experienced riders.
“Another misconception is that someone senior in rank who rides a motorcycle (must be experienced because of their seniority),” the article continued. “Again, this is not always true because many people do not get into motorcycling until their 30s and haven’t been riding all that long. Rank does not make experience. Riding time does.”
Thus comes the “bottom line” of motorcycle safety, which is taking that step beyond general maintenance and donning the correct safety gear to focus on adequate rider knowledge.
For practice, service members can use the Installation Motorcycle Range – located on the corner of Mahone and A avenues – when formal rider training classes are not being conducted. Army personnel are reminded they must attend the Basic Rider Course before operating any motorcycle on- or off-post. A follow-up Experienced Rider Course within the next 12 months and a refresher class every three years after that also are required. Military members can register at https://imc.army.mil/airs.
Army leaders at Fort Lee are further reminded that May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. Videos, posters and other tools to support training activities are available at https://safety.army.mil. For assistance from the Garrison Safety Office, call 804-765-3132.