By Staff Sgt. Jacob Barreiro
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
As the chill of Winter fades, and thoughts of cool weather recede into the nether regions of the cerebral cortex and Spring fever flourishes in the air, many Airmen stop commuting in closed-door, four wheeled automobiles in exchange for the open-aired freedom of motorcycles.
While motorcycle riding can be a great way for people to enjoy the warmer climes, there are safety precautions and prerequisites for any motorcycle rider on base. This includes active duty Airmen, civilian employees, spouses and family members who wish to ride on base.
The Air Force takes motorcycle safety seriously. AFI 91-207, U.S. Air Force Traffic Safety Program, paragraph 4.5, outlines the directions for safety regulations when operating a motorcycle, but the 19th Airlift Wing Safety office is also available to help.
“The biggest problem I see on base is people not wearing their personal protective equipment,” said Master Sgt. Gregory Bradford, a 19th AW ground safety technician, and the instructor for the base’s motorcycle safety courses. “I’m trying to get all of the riders to get the message that wearing PPE isn’t an option, it’s a requirement.”
Not properly wearing PPE while riding a motorcycle is the most common violation the safety office sees, but there are other areas of concern for motorcycle safety too.
“The most serious concern, right now, is other drivers not used to driving with motorcycles on the road,” said Master Sgt. Ricky Carroll, a 19th AW ground safety technician.
Carroll also said that riders should give themselves time to acclimate to riding, particularly after a length three to four month winter break.
“With motorcycle riding, you ride all year and get good in the summer time, but then winter comes,” said Carroll. “If you get back on your motorcycle in the Spring, your skills may not be what they were before. Shake the rust off slow.”
Bradford said a lot of simple skills can be tougher after a long break from riding.
“Even something as simple as making a turn can be difficult for new riders,” he said.
Another prime safety issue is military members not wearing helmets while riding off base, said Bradford.
“For military, it’s mandatory to wear helmets, even off base,” said Bradford.
Wearing a helmet is possibly the most important aspect of motorcycle safety. According to statistics compiled by the Department of Transportation, featured in an article in USA Today in 2008, motorcycle deaths trended up in the years following a slackening of helmet laws.
While safety regulations are outlined in AFIs and can be argued based on statistics, Bradford also teaches a safety class on base, with multiple classes available monthly. Between April and May there will be 12 classes available to potential motorcycle riders on base.
“If you plan on riding a motorcycle or want to attend the class, make sure you inform your motorcycle safety rep and channel it through your chain of command first,” said Bradford. “We want to make sure everybody is trained, but they have to go through their chain first. The main thing is communication, and then participation.”
Safety courses are a good starting point to learn how to mitigate the risk of riding a motorcycle, but it’s incumbent on the rider to practice risk management at all times.
“Basically, use common sense and risk management,” said Bradford.
“Also make sure you plan your trips out,” said Carroll. “Especially for group rides, make sure you plan your route and always use caution, especially with unfamiliar roads.”
For more information about motorcycle safety or attending one of the courses available please contact Bradford at 987-3905.