Year of motorcycle safety

  • Published
  • By General Philip M. Breedlove and Terry A. Yonkers
  • United States Air Force Vice Chief of Staff and Assistant Secretary for Installations, Environment a
This year, we are asking every commander, every rider and the rest of our Air Force family to get focused and committed to motorcycle safety.

Riding motorcycles is an exhilarating form of transportation and recreation which also has a higher level of inherent risk. Airmen, both military and civilian, who choose to ride motorcycles must do everything they can to mitigate these risks every time they ride.

Both of us are avid, life-long, motorcycle riders and can speak from experience. Each rider must exercise special caution, know his or her limitations, and make the right decisions when it comes to speed, reckless riding and alcohol use. Proper use of personnel protective equipment can save your life, so always dress for the crash and not the ride. Treat riding as you would any combat mission by checking your equipment, gear, training and attitude.

Motorcycle fatalities are up more than 150 percent since January 2011, compared to the same period last year. These losses are unacceptable for our Air Force. The Air Force has already suffered one permanent total disability and five fatal motorcycle mishaps. All had two common causal factors: no automobiles were involved and the rider lost control of his motorcycle. All were preventable tragedies and were devastating to our units, communities and our Air Force family.

Commanders and supervisors; your leadership is crucial! Motorcycle safety mentorship is more important than simple e-mail notices and must include face-to-face time with your Airman riders. Senior leaders and senior riders must be in front of this program to ensure wing-level activities foster positive riding attitudes, behaviors and build necessary riding experience.

All military members must complete an approved motorcycle safety rider course to operate a motorcycle on a roadway. Air Force-led joint bases shall provide Basic Rider Course training without cost or delay to all service members. Many Airmen are volunteer Motorcycle Safety Foundation, or MSF, instructors or desire to become instructors. This is an opportunity for commanders and supervisors to invest in building MSF courses on every base. At the end of the day, having sufficient volunteer instructors ensures MSF training is sustainable.

We encourage each installation to focus on motorcycle safety and motorcycle mentorship activities to build strong riding relationships and re-emphasize public awareness. Take the opportunity to publicize motorcycle awareness events such as Ride Your Bike to Work Day, mentor rides, maintenance and safety workshops or teaming with the Base Exchange or community centers to host bike shows and riding demonstrations.

Many base exchanges have begun to offer motorcycle safety gear and personal protective equipment --does yours?

These opportunities are just a few examples of positively influencing and fostering a traffic safety culture and are mutually beneficial for the base population at large and the riding public.

We want each of you to have a wonderful riding season, so watch out for yourself and your fellow Airmen. Each rider is ultimately accountable for his or her individual safety decisions and we're counting on you to maintain your focus on safety. Together, we can save lives!