FORT BELVOIR, Va. (April 19) -- The Fort Belvoir garrison encourages motorcyclist to exercise caution while riding on and off post during all riding conditions.
The motorcycle safety program helps the Army and Department of Defense eliminate motor vehicle-related accidents on military bases.
Soldiers and civilians can help reduce such incidents by riding responsibly and wearing proper personal protection equipment that includes, a fastened helmet, eye protection such as goggles or a full-face shield, sturdy shoes, full-fingered gloves, long trousers and a long-sleeved shirt or jacket.
PPE must meet DoD and Army approved standards.
The Army Safety Program Regulation 385-10 encourages but does not require motorcyclists to wear fluorescent or retro-reflective safety vests or jackets while riding. However, garrison officials still recommend riders wear the vests and any equipment that reduces the chances for an accident.
"On that motorcycle, it's life and death,"said Patricia Borel, Fort Belvoir Safety Office safety specialist. "There's no armor to protect you."
Army, DoD and Belvoir regulations also require government-owned and privately owned motorcycles, mopeds, motor scooters, to have headlights turned on at all times except where prohibited by military mission, state or local laws.
Due to their distractive qualities, hand-held devices, headphones or earphones are also prohibited while riding or driving on Fort Belvoir.
"That road is unforgiving," said Timothy Wolfe Fort Belvoir police chief.
Wolfe, a motorcycling commuter, said riders must stay mentally alert to their surroundings on the road.
"You have to your head focused and you have to be a defensive rider."
Belvoir police may also stop motorcyclists who aren't wearing the proper PPE and will also stop reckless drivers.
"I think people tend to think about themselves when making driving decisions," Borel said. "They have Family members that they to need to consider when operating a motorcycle."
Novice and experienced riders can improve their skills by attending motorcylce safety courses.
Active-duty Soldiers, active Reserves and active Army National Guard are required to complete the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Riders Course, offered for free on military installations, before operating a motorcycle.
The two-day course, sponsored by the Army Traffic Safety Training Program, teaches basic riding fundamentals such as turning, stopping and balancing.
"You're never too experineced to learn someting new," said Maj. Melody Dukes, National Guard Bureau logisttics officer and a basic rider course student.
Belvoir's class is typically offered every other week at the 23rd Naval Mobile Construction Battalion located on Stuart Road. Participants are provided training bikes and safety equipment.
A state motorcycle endorsement is not required for the course.
The basic course is not a licensing course and does not substitute the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles road test.
DoD civilians, Family members and retirees are not eligible to take the class but are encouraged to take advantage of the MSF courses through other means. Riders on Fort Belvoir must have a valid state learner's permit or license to operate a motorcycle on post, according to 2010 DoD Instruction 6055.04.
Wolfe said the requirements help ensure a safe environment for motorists.
"It's inherently very dangerous," said Maj. Ian Lee, Army Medical Department Student Detachment physical therapist and basic rider course student. "I've seen a lot of motorcyclists come in fairly broken from accidents."
Basic riding students learn in the classroom and on the driving range where instructors provide step-by-step knowledge for maintiaing, starting, riding and turning a motorcycle.
Riders receive a MSF BRC completion card after finishing the class.
"You should always keep the card on your person," Borel said.
Belvoir police will ask Soldiers to present a MSF card during a traffic stop. Failure to present the card will result in a traffic ticket for the rider.
Borel said Soldiers must complete a Experienced Rider Course within 12 months of completing the basic class and they must also complete a Motorcycle Refresher Training course within three years of passing the experienced course.
Both courses are designed to sharpen skilled riders' abilities. Instructors challenge
students with techniques such as abrupt stopping and swerving.
Belvoir typically offers these classes during weeks when the basic rider course isn't offered.
Students must bring their own equipment and motorbike to advanced class. Three wheeled Piaggio scooters are allowed but Trikes are not. A valid state driver's license is required for the courses.
Patrick Gallagher, ATSTP, Cape Fox Government Services contractor and Fort Belvoir lead instructor, recommends civilans and non-Army serivmembers consider taking courses at other military bases. Marine Corps Base Quantico, for example, allows DoD civilians, retirees, disabled veterans with 50 percent or more disability and dependents of active duty military personnel to attend training on a space-available basis.
All active duty military personnel are eligible to take a government-provided motorcycle safety course at Quantico.
Norther Virginia Comunity College offers a basic rider course which is open to anyone willing to pay the $150 registration fee. The 15 hour program runs from mid-March through mid-November each year.
Gallagher said there numerous courses nationally that people can research online.
"There's no bad training," said Wolfe, who encourages military and civilian motorcyclists to take the training courses. "Get as much as you can get because it makes you safer."
Visit www.belvoir.army.mil/safety/mc.asp for more information or to register for the basic riders course.
Riders can view the updated DoD regulation at www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/