Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/news.aspx?id=88207
Story Retrieval Date: 5/19/2013 9:01:32 AM CST
WASHINGTON – For some members of the military the risk does not end when they return home from their tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. Last year of the 71 vehicular fatalities in the army, 25 involved motorcycles. Across all of the armed services, 93 people were killed in motorcycle accidents in 2007 – none combat-related.
It’s reached the point where motorcycle riding has become the number one noncombat safety concern across the services, according to Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army, Addison Davis IV.
Take 1st Lt. Robert Evans who has been riding motorcycles for over 20 years. “It’s an adrenaline rush. We love speed. We love to go fast and we love to be scared,” he explains of the popularity of motorcycle riding in the military.
Members of the Armed Forces gathered at the Pentagon this past weekend to mark the beginning of Motorcycle Safety Awareness month. Transportation Secretary of Mary Peters wants to raise awareness about motorcycle safety among both riders and non-riders.
Peters herself is an avid biker who was involved in a serious accident three years ago. She says that the protective gear she wore that day saved her life.
“You have to stop and think before you jump on that bike and fire up that motor what you’re doing to take care of yourself. Make sure your senses are sharp,” she said.
Although motorcycles account for only 2 percent of all vehicles on the road, they make up 10 percent of all crashes. More than 40 percent of motorcycle crashes are caused by automobiles when drivers fail to see a motorcycle riding close by as they turn left.
Service members were advised to use proper protective gear, such as boots and leather clothing, and make sure to get Transportation Department-certified helmets. Wearing bright colors on helmets and gear can also increase visibility of motorcyclists to other road traffic.
Training and certification are also important to insure that riders’ skills and reflexes can defend them under any weather condition.
“I always wear the correct gear no matter how hot it is. I always wear full pants and a full leather jacket. It makes me sad when I see people riding motorcycles in shorts because you’re just one chipmunk away from road trash,” Lt. Evans said.
The number of motorcyclists in the army including civilians and family members has risen to 100,000 in the past year.
Between Oct. 1 and March 31 -- the first six months of the fiscal year -- 20 soldiers were killed in motorcycle accidents, more than double the number of soldiers killed in the same period last year. Fourteen of the 20 soldiers were on powerful sport bikes that are popular among younger soldiers, according to information from the Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker, Ala.
Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, introduced legislation last year to promote helmet use and encourage all road users to be more aware of motorcycles and motorcycle safety.
“It’s like anything else. With more riders each and every year there’s an increased need to continue to focus on this effort,” Davis said.