Measuring Success

  • Published
  • By Shelia Solis
  • 97 Air Mobility Wing, Wing Safety
We measure our successes in a multitude of ways; excellent and outstanding ratings during an external inspection, continual internal self-inspection to improve the way we do business, our training programs and how well we meet mission goals.

In Safety, we measure success not only by how many details we get right or wrong but by how many lives we save.

One evening a few weeks ago, right outside the gates of Altus Air Force Base, one of our own Airmen was injured during a during a motorcycle accident. The rider failed to negotiate a curve, crashed, and came to rest in a ditch 125 feet from where he lost control. His injuries included a moderate concussion, moderate closed head injury, closed leg fracture, sprained left wrist, and a closed fracture in the C1 vertebrae.

While we don't know exactly why the accident occurred, we do know this young Airman was wearing the correct Personal Protective Equipment which included a highly visible reflective upper garment. It was this reflective garment which caught the attention of a motorist who happened to be looking in the right place at the right time. It was dark and the rider was in a ditch. Had he not been wearing a full reflective vest, he would most likely not have been seen.

This is the fourth motorcycle accident involving a member of the 97th Air Mobility Wing in the last several months. Luckily, all have been success stories because, regardless of how the accident happened or who was at fault, these riders all made good risk management decisions by choosing to wear the appropriate PPE for their ride. Additionally, they all attended the training provided for motorcycle riders and also have great motorcycle mentors within their units.

A sharp mind always looking for danger, possesssing sharp riding skills, and having good quality PPE are the greatest assets someone can have as a motorcycle rider.

In all of these accidents, the mishap victims were fully prepared by wearing the correct PPE. And not just any PPE ... good quality PPE. Wing Safety investigated all but one of these accidents. There is no doubt had these riders not been wearing good quality PPE at the time of their accidents, they might not be with us today.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 96,000 motorcycle riders were involved in accidents in 2008 and 5,290 of those were fatalities. In 2008 motorcycle drivers comprised 14 percent of all motor vehicle accidents fatalities, despite accounting for only three percent of all registered vehicles in the United States. In 2008, helmets saved the lives of 1,829 motorcyclists. Helmets are 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries during motorcycle accidents.

The NHSTA also indicated how visible a motorcycle is to other motorists is a critical factor in accidents involving motorcycles. The chances of being involved in accidents significantly decreases with the use of motorcycle headlamps and by wearing high visibility yellow, orange or bright red jackets.

Additionally, the vast majority of motorcycle riders involved in accidents have not received the correct training. Ninety-two percent of riders who were involved in accidents were self-taught or learned from family members or friends.

More than half of motorcycle accidents involve riders with less than 5 months of experience. The average motorcyclist has about 3 years of experience.

It should be noted crash bars are not an effective injury countermeasure. The crash bars reduction of injury to the ankle and foot is offset by an increase of injury to the upper and lower leg.

The uses of heavy boots, jackets, gloves, etc, are effective in preventing or reducing abrasions and lacerations, which are frequent in motorcycle accidents.

Seventy-three percent of motorcycle accidents involve riders who are not using any eye protection. It's likely the wind on unprotected eyes contributes to the accidents. Only 40 percent of riders involved in mishaps were wearing safety helmets at the time of their accidents. Helmeted riders and passengers showed significantly lower head and neck injuries. This means 60 percent of motorcyclists involved in accidents do not wear helmets. Twenty-six percent of these motorcyclists said they did not wear their helmets because they were uncomfortable.

In the end, this is a success story. Although we've had 4 motorcycle mishaps in the recent months, all or our riders have survived to ride another day due to the correct wear of PPE. Obviously, the use of PPE applies to many activities we participate in, not just riding motorcycles.

Take the time to put on the correct PPE for whatever activity you are participating in. It might be the difference between life and death.