Air Force rolls with motorcycle safety
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Every year someone in the Air Force community loses a loved one, friend or coworker due to a motorcycle accident. To combat these losses and in hopes of saving treasured lives, the Air Force recognizes Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month throughout May.
Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month is a nationally recognized campaign to educate motorcycle riders and non-riders alike on the importance of vehicle safety. This year's focus is for vehicle operators, no matter the type, to "share the road."
Staff Sgt. Francis Maher, 374th Airlift Wing Ground Safety technician, said it is important for motorcycle safety to be emphasized at Yokota because of the diverse population of riders: military, civilian employee, dependents and local nationals. He said riding in Japan can be challenging with the combination of military instructions and local laws governing riders on and off-base.
"Motorcycle safety is an important subject we focus on in the Air Force because of the number of fatalities and injuries to our members involving motorcycles," Maher said.
Since 2004, there have been 2,538 motorcycle mishaps and 162 Airmen who lost their lives because of it, according to Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward, Air Force Chief of Safety. Arthur Albert, Air Force Motorcycle Safety Program manager said that 85 percent of Air Force motorcycle fatalities between 2008 and 2012 were caused by skill, judgment and behavior errors.
"It's easy for Air Force riders to practice safety because it's emphasized to them the moment they receive their first motorcycle training," Maher said. "Having the right skills, training and attitude can lead you to become a safe, if not the safest, rider out there."
Skill is the ability to proficiently perform a required task, according to Maher, who said proficiency is experience and knowledge.
"The greater the task or the more risk associated with the task, the greater the skill requirements," Maher said. "The right training will help you become proficient in the task at hand. Finally and most importantly, is the right attitude. If you have the right attitude for riding, training and proficiency will fall naturally into place."
The initial training for any military motorcycle rider is the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Basic Rider Course.
"The courses are really great," said Staff Sgt. Victoria Mani, a 6-year motorcycle rider here, "Especially if you have never set foot on a bike before, as in my case, then the basic course teaches you everything you need to know -- the right way to ride."
MSFBRC teaches fundamentals every rider should know: proper riding gear, basic motorcycle control and searching for and avoiding potentially dangerous situations. Maher said it consists of approximately 15 hours of total training, both in the classroom and on a bike.
After the initial course, service members are recommended to continue their motorcycle training through the Experience Rider Course and Basic Rider Course-2, the Military Sport Bike Course and other training Maher said individuals may encounter throughout their career.
Maher encourages riders to wear proper personal protective equipment and use a tire, controls, lights, oil, chassis and stands check on their bikes before riding.
"Techniques riders may want to follow after initial training includes performing a T-CLOCS inspection prior to starting your bike, be visible, dress for safety, apply effective mental strategies and know your bike and how to use," Maher said.
According to the ground safety technician, riders should refer to Air Force Instruction 91-207 and the Pacific Air Force Supplement for additional requirements on personal protective equipment and training. Refer to United States Forces Japan Instruction 31-205 and Yokota Air Base Instruction 31-204 for additional information on Japan and Yokota-specific requirements on registration and training.
For more questions about motorcycle safety or the steps to take to legally ride a motorcycle, call a unit motorcycle safety representative or base safety office.