The U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center (USACRC) recently concluded a study of Soldier motorcycle fatalities that occurred in the U.S. between 2016 and 2019.
With a yearly average of 25 Soldiers fatally injured in motorcycle mishaps, the study identified causal factors and conditions that can help riders and leaders drive down motorcycle accidents involving Soldiers.
"With 13 Soldier fatalities from motorcycle mishaps this year, we are 8% higher than we were last year at this time. The study could not have been concluded at a better time," said Brig. Gen. Andrew C. Hilmes, commanding general at the USACRC and director of Army Safety. "Information from the study reinforces much of the loss preventive efforts we've already pushed to riders and leaders in the field as we enter the prime riding season, which corresponds with the deadliest time of year for Soldier riders."
The study reviewed 99 Soldier motorcycle fatalities that had been entered into the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a nationwide census providing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Congress and the American public with yearly data regarding fatal injuries suffered in motor vehicle traffic crashes.
One of the study’s most significant insights revealed that a vast majority of Soldier riders made a mistake that directly contributed to the fatal accident.
“This fact, in itself, is incredibly insightful,” said Command Sgt. Maj. James L. Light, USACRC’s senior non-commissioned officer. “Knowing most fatal mishaps are due to rider errors allows us to focus on rider training and experience.”
The study also revealed that 73% of single-vehicle mishaps were on curves, proving that negotiating a curve can be the most dangerous aspect of motorcycle riding.
“The study by our Operations Research & Systems Analysis team allows us to better profile where and when the most serious motorcycle accidents will occur,” said Hilmes. “When riders can better see and understand the situations that place them at the greatest risk, they can mitigate the risks.”
Based on historical mishap data not associated with the study, March is one of two high-risk times of year as riders welcome the warm riding weather following the colder, winter months. The second high-risk period runs from July to August as summer is in full swing. This year, with gas prices surging, the USACRC expects more Soldiers to use motorcycles as their primary means of transportation, and also expects a higher number of mishaps as a result.
“Its prime time for junior leaders to ensure their riders have completed the required Basic Rider Course and follow-on courses as needed,” said Light. “Leaders should also encourage and sponsor mentorship rides where experienced riders help guide those with less experience. It’s really all about training for the expected and unexpected.”
As in years past, the USACRC will highlight motorcycle loss prevention tools and information as the nation recognized the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month in May. The information will take into account the results of the motorcycle mishap study and will target other areas of the Army’s problem areas.
See your Garrison Safety Office for information about required motorcycle training.
For more information from the USACRC on motorcycle loss prevention, go to: