ACC suffers six motorcycle fatalities before summer hits

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS,Va. — Air Combat Command has suffered six motorcycle fatalities this fiscal year, which is well past the one motorcycle fatality in fiscal year 2014. This spike in fatalities is alarming because summer, which is when motorcycle traffic surges, has not begun yet.

One of the motorcycle fatalities was a qualified motorcycle instructor who was leading a mentor group ride when he failed to negotiate a curve, and struck a sign. The instructor died of a fractured vertebra and blunt trauma.

“Even one motorcycle death is too many,” said Col. Lawrence Nixon, ACC director of safety. “It is an absolute shame to lose one of our biggest proponents for safe motorcycle riding. It is crucial for riders to always follow the rules and ride within their own ability.”

Motorcycle safety is a topic leadership discuss every year because approximately 10 percent of Airmen ride motorcycles. In 2014, the Air Force had 235 motorcycle accidents fatally injuring 13 Airmen, according to the Air Force Automation System.

A motorcyclist is 26 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a traffic crash, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  Although speed and alcohol consumption are large contributing factors to motorcycle accidents, the Department of Motor Vehicles found that two-thirds of fatal motorcycle crashes involve a motorcycle and another vehicle. Motorists either do not see the oncoming motorcycle or the motorist doesn’t see the motorcycle in time to avoid a crash.

“We encourage everyone on the road to look twice, and realize you are sharing the road with motorcycles,” said Senior Master Sgt. Derrick Mitchell, ACC Ground Safety superintendent.  “Always check your blind spot. When you see a motorcycle, take a few seconds to anticipate its speed before you pull out in front of it. And remember, one careless mistake could cost the life of someone.”

At the same time, motorcyclists have to be aware that even if a driver does a double take, they still may be hard to see.  

While there will always be hazards associated with driving motorcycles, training, experience and safe-riding practices can lower the possibility of an accident.

The ACC Safety Office encourages riders to use the Check 3–GPS, which is a risk management process. Here are the three steps:

– Gear–Motorcycle condition, drinking water, personal protective equipment, etc.

– Plan–Weather, route, let friends know your plan

– Skills–Are you experienced enough? Are you rested enough?

Here are a few tips:

– Complete required Air Force motorcycle training (see your installation’s safety office)

– Avoid tailgating

– Never drive after drinking

– Maintain a safe speed an exercise caution during inclement weather, slippery surfaces, and gravel

– Ride with a wingman

“Drivers can all share the road and do it safely if traffic laws are followed and everyone is mindful of each other,” said Mitchell.

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