NATICK, Mass. — Spring is here both on the calendar and in the weather. Temperatures are trending up, and buds are peeking with the anticipation of blossoming. Now is the time to prepare your motorcycle and personal protective equipment for the road. Safety and preparation are key to a successful riding season.
“Unfortunately, within the military and the Army specifically, 25 deaths in fiscal year 2022 were caused by motorcycle accidents. That’s 29% of the fatalities in the Army,” said Louis Calcagni, the Safety Manager for Natick Soldier Systems Center. “A lot of it was caused by poor maintenance of vehicles. A lot of injuries, time off from work and fatalities can all be avoided if people just do their motorcycle inspections."
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcyclists are 28 times more likely to die in a crash than those riding in passenger cars. In the military, the dangers are compounded by the inherent risks of their jobs.
“You'd be surprised how many people out there on the road have motorcycles and don't know what they're looking at when they look at the mechanics of the bike. They just take it in for service and say stuff needs to be done. But unlike a car, a motorcycle isn't a game. It's not something you want to play with. You should be looking at it all the time to make certain that you're being safe,” said Calcagni.
Proper Army-mandated PPE includes a Snell-approved helmet, eye protection, sturdy boots, gloves, and clothing made of abrasion-resistant materials. This gear can provide critical protection in the event of an accident, reducing the severity of injuries and even saving lives.
“The Snell Safety Foundation helmets are required by the Army because they undergo such rigorous tests. The DoD has used a lot of OSHA regulations for looking at PPE to verify what types of injuries have been caused previously on motorcycles, which is why over the ankle shoes and gloves are required,” said Calcagni.
It is always important for riders to follow basic safety procedures, such as obeying traffic laws, not riding while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and avoiding riding in adverse weather conditions whenever possible.
“When you're on a motorcycle, you're on two wheels. You don't have that protection around you. So, if you're tired or if you're driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, no matter if the drugs or illicit drugs or just over-the-counter, not only are you putting yourself in danger, but you're putting other drivers in or around you in danger as well,” said Calcagni.
There has been a push in recent years to implement more motorcycle safety initiatives, such as public awareness campaigns and increased law enforcement efforts, in hopes that heightened awareness will help reduce the number of motorcycle accidents and fatalities on the road. Similarly, the Army has maintained a strict requirement of PPE standards while riding on base.
“I know the Army specifically is very stringent on their safety rules. You’re supposed to have certain equipment; long pants, high ankle boots, gloves, reflective gear, some type of jacket, whether it be a mesh jacket or a leather jacket, those types of things. And it’s enforced, so you’re going to have to stop and put all that on if you want to ride on base,” said Serge Loiselle, a Management Analyst with U.S. Army Garrison Natick and a motorcycle rider of 35 years.
The love and passion many riders have for the experience lead them to adopt motorcycle riding as a lifelong hobby, while others as a lifestyle.
“It’s good cheap transportation. I know for me and people that I ride with, it's therapeutic, believe it or not, it clears your mind. Even though you are focused on riding, on traffic, and everything else. For some reason you're able to compartmentalize and still enjoy the surroundings and the ride,” said Loiselle.
Whether you’re a road warrior doing 500-mile road trips, daily commuter, or a hobby rider, the goal is always to enjoy the trip. Maintaining proper safety, awareness, and courtesy on the road helps everyone arrive safely.