Military Partners with Police on Motorcycle Safety
Ongoing Training Keeps Military Cyclists Safe during Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month
May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and police partnered with military at a training session on Friday, May 2, at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency in an effort to keep members safer.
Overall, motorcycle crashes are down in the Commonwealth of Virginia, from 123,579 in 2012 to 105,823 in 2013. There were 77 fatal crashes in 2012 and 60 in 2013. The military, however, cites an increase. According to the Department of Defense, motorcycle accidents are a leading cause of death among service members and represent 20% of all service member accidental deaths. In 2013, 90 military members died in 2-wheel fatalities; as of February 20, there were 28 service member deaths and DoD estimates a total projected 20% increase over 2013.
Estimates for the numbers of military service members who ride motorcycles is roughly over 30%. Despite initial and repeat motorcycle safety training at each installation, the DoD provides additional information online through their DoD Military Rider program and hosts motorcycle events (such as today’s) at the beginning of riding season and nice weather.
Fairfax County Police partner with the military, corporations and communities that request safety presentations, as their time and resources permit. The police department employs a squad of 32 full-time motorcycle officers who are responsible for enforcing traffic laws, investigating crashes and providing funeral escorts. They undergo a strict training regimen and ongoing training is a critical component of their position. They must pass a rigorous 80 hour training course and are mandated to attend ongoing quarterly training.
Police are also working with Rider Alert to help spread the word about the importance of ongoing training to help increase rider safety. The organization distributes safety cards to riders at the time of registering their motorcycles. The following are tips to be aware of this May.
Top Safety Tips for Motorcyclists
- Learn to negotiate curves. Slow down before entering a curve. Make sure you can see through the curve (you will go where your eyes are looking!). Slightly accelerate coming out of the curve (do not accelerate too quickly).
- Check your motorcycle before riding. Check your tires for wear and proper air pressure. Check your brakes and the motorcycle overall.
- Riders should make sure they are ready to ride as well. Make sure you have not used prescription drugs that could alter your ability to react. Do not use alcohol before or while riding and make sure you have adequate sleep before driving any motorized vehicle.
- Make yourself visible. Choose protective gear that provides visibility and protection. This includes wearing bright colors. If riding at night, wear clothing with reflective materials.
- Allow space. Position your bike in the lane so that you can be seen. Allow additional space for emergency braking and room to maneuver. Avoid riding in a motorist’s blind spot. Make lane changes gradually and use appropriate signaling.
- Never share a lane beside a car. A driver may be unaware of your presence. Most drivers are looking for larger vehicles, not motorcycles.
- Clearly signal your intentions. Use turn signals before changing lanes and never weave between lanes.
- Don’t speed. Obey the posted limits and adjust your speed to the changing road conditions.
- Wear protective gear.
– Helmet – Always wear a U.S. DOT-approved helmet. It can save your life and it is the law in Virginia.
– Eye protection – Visibility is key to riding safely. Many motorcycles do not have windshields. Riders should protect their eyes with goggles that can shield the face from wind and debris, both of which can cause tearing and, blurred vision.
– Body Protection – Jackets with long sleeves and trousers protect limbs from injury.
– Gloves – Durable gloves should be a non-slip type to permit a firm grip on controls.
– Footwear – Proper over-the-ankles footwear should be worn to help prevent injuries.
- Complete a motorcycle rider education and training course. Many motorcyclists have had no formal training – they are self-taught or learned from family and friends. Before operating a motorcycle in Virginia, a rider must pass the motorcycle knowledge exam, hold a motorcycle learner’s permit for 30 days and pass the motorcycle road skills test. Completing a Virginia Rider Training Course exempts the rider from taking the exams.
For more information on safety statistics in the Commonwealth of Virginia, check http://www.dmv.state.va.us/safety/#programs/motorcycle/index.html.
For more information on the DoD Military rider program, check http://www.defense.gov/home/features/2012/0412_militaryrider/
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