During this fiscal year and as of March 18, 36 Soldiers have died in motorcycle and personal vehicle accidents across the Army, according to personnel at the Fort Huachuca Safety Office. This does not account for fatalities resulting from other outdoor activities. Off-duty recreational activities account for more than 20 percent of fatalities.
With spring’s arrival, more people get the urge to get outdoors and ride.
“Motorcycle riding continues to gain popularity with our Soldiers and Civilians,” said Daniel Orta, installation safety director.
Orta urges those riding motorcycles to join a unit mentorship program and take part in group rides. He says riders need to make sure they have necessary training, wear the proper gear and be vigilant of their surroundings when riding.
Members of the Safety Office here are also concerned with the increased potential of all-terrain vehicle, or ATV, and watercraft injuries.
“Some of the [motorcycle, ATV and watercraft] issues that are common Army-wide … are mainly due to undisciplined or untrained operators,” Orta explained.
Even in Arizona, water-related injuries usually increase during the summer as people take to popular area lakes and other bodies of water.
“Watercraft injuries are due mainly to inexperience with equipment or mixing alcohol with water operations. [Accidents also happen as the result of] swimming in areas where there is no lifeguard on duty as well as swimming in non-designated areas,” Orta added. He also explained that accidents happen to people who can’t swim and who are not wearing flotation devices when out on the water.
“Sport injuries [can happen] due to military activities where there is no supervision and no risk assessment was completed,” Orta said.
Unit organized sports such as football, volleyball or basketball are another area where the safety office sees a lot of injuries related to dislocated joints, twisted ankles, or the occasional broken arm or leg. Summertime illnesses like dehydration or overexertion are common as well.
That’s why Fort Huachuca safety officials say commanders need to brief their personnel on some of the off-duty hazards they might face.
Hiking-related incidents are also more prevalent during periods of warmer weather. Orta said many of these injuries are due to people not wearing the proper equipment, staying hydrated or letting anyone know where they are.
Incidents where people encounter wild animals also increase.
“If anyone comes across wildlife [such as bear or other cubs], my advice to them would be to turn around and walk away from the animals and do not try to pick up any young wildlife because the mother is always close by. If hiking in the mountains, be properly outfitted and bring some defense equipment such as noise makers to maybe scare the animal off,” Orta stated.
People should also be alert for snakes, scorpions or nests of stinging insects when recreating outdoors.
Those who want to ride a bicycle should ensure that their bike is equipped for the type of riding they want to do, such as mountain biking. Bring parts for emergency repairs such as flat tires.
During any outdoor activity, bring plenty of water. Let someone know where you are going and when you’ll be back.
At this time of year, safety personnel are also concerned about accidents related to working outside the house.
“I would advise everyone doing any form of yard work to be careful using motorized equipment because of the possibility of someone getting hit by flying rocks,” Orta said. He also advised people to watch for snakes hiding under rocks or within patches of tall grass.
For more information on summer safety or programs offered on post, contact the Fort Huachuca Safety Office, 533.3697.