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NEWS | Nov. 21, 2013

Motorcyclists: Think safe, ride free

By Staff Sgt. Stephanie R. Plichta 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

"I remember seeing pictures of his bruised body and cracked helmet."

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ashley Smith, 633rd Air Base Wing safety technician, said that experience shaped her beliefs and ideas on motorcycle safety.

"Ten years ago, [my father] woke up in the hospital after being in a coma for two days," said Smith. "[He] was hit by a truck that ran a red light. A helmet saved his life."
For Joint Base Langley-Eustis riders, the potential for a life-changing accident to occur can be lessened through proper classes.

The 633rd ABW Safety Office motorcycle safety program, along with Department of Defense-sponsored Green Knights Military Motorcycle Club, emphasizes the importance of wearing personal protective equipment and being aware of other motorists while on the road.

In 2012, Air Combat Command reported 90 motorcycle mishaps and eight fatalities. In 2013, ACC reported 42 motorcycle mishaps and one fatality to date. JBLE reported 16 percent of those ACC mishaps in 2012 and 5 percent in 2013.

While the number of motorcycle mishaps has decreased, Service members should continue to remain vigilant.

To help educate Service members and continue to decrease mishaps, the 633rd ABW Safety Office offers program options for motorcycle riders.

For riders who complete the Basic Rider Course, the 633rd ABW Safety Office provides the Basic Rider Course 2, as well as a motorcycle safety representative course. BRC-2 is designed for riders who want to improve their current skills or desire a refresher course. It mirrors real-life situations that challenge riders to improve their technique and maneuvers while reinforcing fundamentals.

Master Sgt. Harold Joe, 633rd ABW Safety Office superintendent, is actively involved with the program and mishap investigations.

"From what I see in mishaps, it's all about risk management," said Joe. "Realistically, it all boils down to making the right decisions at the right time."

According to the safety office, there are no related factors in previous or recent motorcycle mishaps.

With a goal of minimum mishaps, biannual education meetings that teach the newest information are held by motorcycle safety representatives at JBLE. Representatives relay safety messages throughout their units and assist the safety office with educating new and experienced riders.

Because of her experience, Smith, a safety representative and active motorcycle passenger, stresses the importance of riding safely to all motorcyclists. Smith is also a member of the Green Knights Military Motorcycle Club, which she says helps solidify the importance of being safe while riding.

The Green Knights MMC is a club for military members, DOD civilian employees and dependents whose intent is to mentor one another while practicing safe-riding habits.
Master Sgt. William Dwyer, 1st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron hot-refueling program manager, is the Green Knights MMC chapter 48 president.

Dwyer, familiar with all motorcycle certifications and regulations, says there are many details Service members forget when they decide to purchase a motorcycle.

"There's more to riding than just buying a [motorcycle]," said Dwyer. "Aside from the cost of the motorcycle, insurance and registration, there are several other things you need to consider. You need to buy good [PPE] which could cost upwards of $1,000. It's a big investment, but it's how to stay safe."

Dwyer has been riding for 12 years and offers some advice so people can know exactly what goes into becoming a motorcycle rider.

"New riders often buy a bike that's too much motorcycle for them," said Dwyer. "Start slow, buy a smaller and lighter bike that you can maneuver easily and try to find an experienced rider to mentor you."

Motorists and motorcyclists are equally responsible for maintaining situational awareness, said Dwyer.

The size of a motorcycle makes it difficult for the average driver to see. Motorists should remember when looking for other vehicles to also look for motorcycles.

When driving near motorcyclists, Dwyer said it is important to maintain a safe distance. The slightest contact could result in serious injury for the rider. Drivers should also treat motorcycles as a full-sized vehicle, allowing them equal rights on the road.

"Just taking the extra second to check and see if there are motorcyclists on the road could prevent an accident," said Dwyer. "Motorcyclists are out there; look for them."

For more information on the motorcycle safety program or how to become a motorcycle safety representative, contact the 633rd ABW Safety Office at 764-5058.

For more information about the Green Knights MMC, e-mail or visit