By Col. Deborah GraysApril 21, 2011
Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem
Earlier this week, we all received a stark reminder concerning the dangers of motorcycle riding in the greater metro-Atlanta area. In Cobb County, a person suspected of being under the influence of alcohol was fleeing police at speeds up to 130 mph. The ensuing crash threw the individual 100 yards from their motorcycle.
News like this always gives me pause when I think about my Soldiers and Civilian employees out on the roads in our area, enjoying the warm weather on their favorite brand of bike. But we need to be thinking safety while enjoying our fun.
I don't have to tell you that when we leave the gates of our posts, we enter into some of the most congested traffic in the country. According to the Governor's Office of Highway Safety (GOHS), seven of the counties surrounding our posts, including Cobb, accounted for 51 of the 177 motorcycle fatalities in Georgia in 2008. That's 28 percent of the fatal accidents in the entire state and they were right in our back yard.
The GOHS also shows that motorcycle accidents are steadily increasing each year, from 3,216 in 2003 to 5,051 in 2008. In a recent memorandum, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff, reminded us of the 40 Soldiers lost to motorcycle accidents in Fiscal Year 2010. Studies have shown the causes are linked to riders operating beyond their abilities and taking on too much personal risk.
The Army plans to implement a "Progressive Motorcycle Program" in 2012 that will focus on lifelong learning that will require the Experienced and Military Sportbike Riders Course in addition to the Basic Course. However, I need to encourage all riders to begin implementing good judgment and practices now.
We need to ride smart. All of you who ride on Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem already have the mandatory Basic Riders Course. While there you received both classroom and riding instruction. Your bikes were inspected and passed a Motorcycle Safety Foundation's tires and wheels, controls, lights, oil, chassis, and stands (TCLOC-S) inspection. The instructors made sure you had proof-of-insurance, registration, valid driver's license with motorcycle endorsement and your military ID card were all in order. Finally, they checked your personal protective equipment(PPE) which included DOT approved helmet with shatter-proof eye protection, reflective vest, high-top boots, gloves, and long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
Did you know that you could sharpen your riding skills at the U.S. Army Garrison Safety Office's Experienced Riders Course' Classes are offered several times a month and you can check out the schedules on https://AIRS.LMI.ORG or call 678 516 3283.
We need to team up and ride safe. I challenge those of you who have spent many years riding to mentor the new and less experienced riders. When you see them doing something unsafe, pull them off to the side and give them the benefit of your wisdom. So much of what we do in the Army, whether we are uniformed servicemembers or Civilians, requires us to work as a team. This is the best way for us to do our jobs safely and effectively. We shouldn't put that to the side when we're off duty.
We should still be looking out for one another. One Soldier dying on the street is one more than our country, and more importantly their Families, can afford to lose.