FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Army News Service, Aug. 6, 2007) - The number of Soldiers dying in privately owned vehicle and motorcycle accidents is down, according to Army safety officials.

As of July 23, the Army has experienced 90 POV accident fatalities compared to such deaths in fiscal 2006, and Army officials are attributing the success to the Army's engaged leadership.

"The good news is that we have leaders who are actively involved and pushing programs and information to the lowest functional experts," said Brig. Gen. William H. Forrester, U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center commander. "Leaders down to the lowest level are seeking ways to improve safety and awareness throughout our Army."

The Army's Motorcycle Mentorship Program pairs less experienced riders with seasoned riders to create a supportive environment of responsible motorcycle riding. There are currently 57 unit- and installation-level programs supporting more than 1,600 members.

"We know this program is having an impact by simply looking at the numbers," Brig. Gen. Forrester said. "We have about 11 total fatalities less than this time last year ... that's a 28-percent reduction in motorcycle fatalities."

"The key is engaged leadership," added USACRC Command Sgt. Maj. Tod Glidewell. "It doesn't matter if you're riding a motorcycle or going fishing, if you have engaged leaders who care about their Soldiers and take the time to communicate with them on a daily basis, that's going to make a difference."

During fiscal 2006, the Army experienced a 33-percent increase in motorcycle fatalities with 49 deaths. As of July 23 this fiscal year, USACRC recorded 29 motorcycle fatalities.

Leaders are also using the Army's TRiPS program to decrease POV accidents and fatalities. This risk-planning tool allows servicemembers and civilian employees to create a tailor-made risk analysis for traveling. It gives users specific guidance and steps to take to lower the overall risk while traveling. Users can also view narratives of mishaps that happened during similar trips and other traffic-safety information.

Although as of July 23 this fiscal year, the Army has suffered 33 fatalities in sedans, a slight decrease from the 40 fatalities for fiscal 2006 in the same timeframe, the number of fatalities in the "Other" POV category has increased from 18 in fiscal 2006 to 28 in fiscal 2007. This category consists of pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, vans and all-terrain vehicles.

"As leaders, we can't lose focus," Brig. Gen. Forrester said. "We can't become complacent. We need continued engagement by our leaders. It's this one-on-one engagement - or Oak-tree counseling - between first-line supervisors and their subordinates that brings these programs to life."

A key feature for supervisors using the TRiPS tool is that they receive a copy of the risk analysis. This allows them the opportunity to discuss the planned trip, the risks involved and how to control those risks with the traveler/subordinate.

Since its inception, Soldiers have completed more than 2.3 million assessments. Of those who completed the assessments, four have been killed with only two of those actually operating the vehicle. Soldiers complete roughly three to 5,000 assessments a day.

Command Sgt. Maj. Glidewell said he believes the success of continuing a downward trend in Army loss is on the shoulders of the Army's young leaders, such as platoon sergeants, platoon leaders and below.

"As long as our young leaders continue stepping up and making the right decisions for their groups," he said, "we'll be successful in reducing loss and remaining an Army Strong."

(Kelly Widener writes for the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center.)