Motorcycle Vets — Speeding Into The Danger Zone

Motorcycle Vets — Speeding Into The Danger Zone ABILITY Jobs

Each day a report comes to Stan Dutko Jr.’s office, and each day he gets more frustrated.

The report is the Daily Mishap Summary, and it is updated each time a Marine or sailor dies due to an off-base, off-duty, recreational mishap. The most frequent cause of such deaths? Motorcycles.

“I’ll be completely honest with you, we’re not doing that well, Marine Corps and Navy-wide,” said Dutko, the Installation and Regional Safety Manager at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
Between October 2007 and October 2008, 24 active-duty Marines died from motorcycle accidents. Those numbers make the Marine Corps cringe, especially since a high-speed bike can be just the tonic for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, who thirst for recreational entertainment. Though this may seem like a smaller Marine Corps problem,it is actually a microcosm of a larger national issue.

“The numbers are saying that [many soldiers] go into a dealer and most of them—if they’re younger—will get on a crotch-rocket designed to go 200 mph on a racetrack,” said Arney Hinden, a 70-year-old Coast Guard veteran and motorcycle enthusiast. “The soldier may have a license from 10 years ago when they were 16. They get on that thing and they don’t even get home. The numbers are saying they’re crashing.”

There were 4,810 deaths on motorcycles in the U.S. in 2006, an increase of 5 percent over the previous year, and more than double (2,161) over the decade before, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In the Marine Corps, high-speed bikes account for the majority of fatalities. In 2007, 78 percent of motorcycle mishaps in the Marines occurred on a sport bike, compared to 38 percent nationally, according to the 2008 Naval Safety Center.

Overall, the national fatality rate increased by 6.6 percent from 2006 to 2007, supporting a recent trend, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. While automobile fatalities have fallen to the lowest point since 2003, motorcycle fatality rates have doubled during that period, according to the Naval Safety Center.

Dutko attributes the increase in mishap rates to a dramatic increase in motorcycle purchases, particularly among vets. With fluctuating gas prices, motorcycles have become even more popular because they are a less expensive means of transportation compared to cars. But the NHTSA has found that among drivers involved in speeding-related crashes in 2006, more motorcyclists (37 percent) died than passenger car drivers (23 percent). Data suggests that the faster the bike, the greater the death rate: More than 70 percent of motorcycle rider fatalities in 2006 occurred either on a bike with an engine between 501 and 1,000 cubic centimeters in size, or an engine between 1,001 and 1,500 cc’s.

Dutko says that all Marine Corps bases require active-duty soldiers and sailors to complete a safety course to operate a motorcycle. At Camp Lejeune, three safety courses are offered to soldiers and sailors at the base, and are extended to veterans in the Jacksonville, NC, area. The course curriculum is designed by the internationally recognized Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

The 20-hour basic rider course covers classroom and road time, along with motorcycle operation, including how to start the bike, how to shift gears, how to stop, clutch manipulation, steering techniques and safety equipment. Dutko says it’s a different kind of driver’s education course designed specifically for motorcycles. For more experienced riders with cruiser bikes, there is a class to teach them curve negotiation and braking with a heavier vehicle, which might include a second rider on the back. This course is designed for motorcyclists who ride slower, weightier bikes that require a more tactical approach to navigating the streets. Dutko says the riders who typically enroll in this latter course also tend to enjoy comfort over speed.

A new sport bike course is available for motorcyclists whose machines can get up to speeds of nearly 200 mph. This class covers high-speed braking, high-speed maneuvering and tight cornering skills.

“It is mandatory for all Marines who own a motorcycle or are thinking about buying one, to come into the safety office and sign up for the basic rider course,” Dutko said. “We recommend that they take the class before they purchase the motorcycle. That way they have the skills needed to operate it when they buy it.

“A lot of times, the Marine will buy the motorcycle, and then come in here, and we’ll get them into the class right away. At Camp Lejeune, if somebody comes in here on a Thursday afternoon and wants to sign up for a motorcycle safety class, I can get him in a class by Monday.”..... continued in ABILITY Magazine

ABILITY Magazine
Other articles in the Scott Hamilton issue include Senator Harkin — Updating the ADA; Headlines — Best Buddies, Diamonds in the Raw; Humor — Unfortunately, It’s All About Diet & Exercise; Best Practices — Microsoft; Managing Pain — Latest Techniques; DRLC — Good News For Vets; National Institutes of Health — Cool Research; Neil Romano — Assistant Secretary of Labor (Part 2); ABILITY's Crossword Puzzle; Events and Conferences...subscribe

More excerpts from the Scott Hamilton issue:

Scott Hamilton — Can’t Keep A Good Man Down

Logan — The Woman, The Magazine

Motorcycle Vets — Speeding Into The Danger Zone

Childhood Obesity — The Skinny on a Big, Fat Problem

Brain Tumors — From A to Z

Senator Harkin — Updating the ADA

Humor — Unfortunately, Itís All About Diet & Exercise

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