Motorcycle, recreational vehicle safety vital during summer

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kenneth W. Norman
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Now that the weather is changing and spring fever has arrived, people are starting to dust off their motorcycles, all terrain vehicles and dirt bikes. Along with the fun these vehicles provide also comes great responsibility.

"Usually about this time of the year there will be an influx of people needing [motorcycle] training," said Mr. Leon Pike, 97th Air Mobility Wing lead motorcycle safety instructor. "Some are first-time riders and others are people who haven't ridden in a while."

Since 2006, Air Force members have sustained 1,233 motorcycle mishaps, whereas Air Education and Training Command members have sustained 179. Of those mishaps, Sunday was the day of the week most mishaps occurred, with a total of 44, followed by Saturday with a total of 37. Tuesday had the lowest amount of motorcycle mishaps with a total of 16.

"The number-one cause of mishaps we see with these types of vehicles is speed," said Mr. Michael J. Matthews, 97th Air Mobility Wing ground safety manager. "Speed is the number-one killer - it doesn't matter four-wheel, two-wheel, ATV or dirt bike - speed is still the number-one cause of mishaps and loss of control."

According to Mr. Matthews, it has been six years since Altus had a fatality due to a recreational vehicle accident.

"[Personal protective equipment] is a life saver. We have investigated several accidents where the PPE [the riders] wore saved their lives," Mr. Matthews said.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, motorcyclist fatalities have steadily increased during the past decade. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,829 motorcyclists in 2008. If all motorcyclists had worn helmets, an additional 823 lives could have been saved.

"Wear the required PPE and obey the laws," Mr. Mathews said. "Also don't ride something you're not used to, be trained on what you are doing."

Not all accidents are caused by operator errors. Equipment malfunction is another cause for motorcycle, ATV and dirt bike accidents. Since most motorcycles and recreational vehicles are stowed away during the winter, they likely require routine maintenance. Checking the tire pressure, tire condition, lights, brakes and engine oil are some basic areas to check.

"The more riders you have, the greater the possibility for accidents," Mr. Pike said. "We tend to also have more accidents this time of year because many of the bikes have been stored for winter and have not been maintained."

Altus AFB has classes available for nearly every level rider. The classes available are: beginner rider course, experienced rider course and sports bike rider course. There are also motorcycle mentor rides.

Oklahoma state law does not require motorcyclists to wear protective helmets, but for servicemembers the Air Force does.

According to Mr. Mathews, head injuries are the most common injuries when riding these types of vehicles.

"We need the involvement of the commanders and supervisors to let their people know that if they are going to ride these types of vehicles to get the proper training and proper equipment," Mr. Mathews said.

For more information about safety tips or riders courses contact Wing Safety at, 481-7233.