A Staff Sergeant assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia, died in a PMV-2 mishap 1 August 2021 in Stewart County, Georgia, at 0110 local. The Soldier was traveling northbound on the wrong side of the road and struck a civilian pickup truck head-on. A civilian in the truck called 911. Emergency medical services and the Georgia State Patrol pronounced the Soldier dead at the scene. Speed and alcohol/drugs are not suspected as contributing factors to the mishap. The Soldier was wearing the required personal protective equipment and completed the required Motorcycle Safety Foundation courses. No injuries were reported for the civilians in the truck.
Since 2016, the Army has lost an average of 27 Soldiers a year to off-duty PMV-2 mishaps. This mishap was the 20th off-duty PMV-2 fatality of FY21.
Motorcycle Safety Tips
Of the 20 PMV-2 mishaps this fiscal year, eight occurred during the hours of darkness, involving seven fatalities and one permanent partial disability (loss of leg below the knee). Three involved speeding, and alcohol may be involved in two others. Below are some tips to help you survive riding at night.
1. Lights and action:
Dirt and bugs caked on headlights can reduce how much light you have out front. It is critical to make sure your bike’s lights are working, properly aimed and have clean, intact lenses.
Carry spare bulbs and correct lighting circuit fuses in your pack. Finding a place to get those items after hours can be tough, particularly out on rural rides. Consider upgrading the bulb in older bike lighting systems. Halogens, other bulbs or even LED options may be available to upgrade from older-style sealed beam or incandescent units. These bulbs can throw a lot more light, depending on the make and year of your bike.
Check brake and turn signal lights to ensure they are working properly. Keeping the bike’s side-facing reflectors intact and visible is also important to being safe after dark. Reflective tape can be added to improve the visibility of the bike to other motorists.
2. See and be seen:
High-visibility and light-colored riding gear can make the rider more visible to other riders and drivers. In low and fading light or foggy conditions, fluorescent colors seem to glow by absorbing short-wavelength light not visible to the human eye and re-radiating it as long-wavelength light the human eye can see.
Jackets made with fluorescent colors in combination with retroreflective materials in logos, stripes or piping can make a rider highly visible at long range in another vehicle’s headlights. While you’re at it, don’t forget to gear up. This includes boots, stout riding pants, gloves, jacket, helmet, eye protection, and CE-approved impact protection.
3. Be visionary:
Those dark wrap-around sunglasses or that slick, but dark reflective helmet shield work great at high noon, but can be potential contributors to disaster late in the day or after dark. Have a backup plan for maximizing your vision with clear shatterproof riding glasses and/or clear helmet shield for the long ride home.
A photochromatic shield may also be an option. If you ride with a windshield and actually look through it instead of over it, keep that windshield clean. Even a moderate sized bug splat on the windshield creates a view obstruction covering square feet of area down the road.
Any roadside hazard — like a deer, coyote, raccoon or dog poised to kiss your front tire — can be difficult to see in broad daylight. Seeing them after dark requires giving yourself every advantage you can. Lots of wildlife becomes more active after dark, so seeing those critters at the roadside in time can make all the difference.
4. Lose speed, not control:
Highway-speed driving with anything after dark is more risky than it is in the daylight hours, but on a motorcycle, high speed alone can erase the positive safety effects of everything else you may do. The answer is simple; keep your travel speed down on the straights and even more so in the corners.
Stretch your following distances with other vehicles — the other drivers can’t see as well, either, so unexpected things looming in the headlights are more likely to cause them to panic stop. On roads that are unfamiliar, this becomes a critical factor; an innocent decreasing-radius corner that is simply fun to carve in daylight can fool you past the fog line and into the trees after dark.
5. Absolute sobriety:
Driving any motor vehicle with booze or any other intoxicants on board is inviting disaster; riding a motorcycle at night under those circumstances defies common sense.
So, if you’re going to be a night rider, even for a relatively short distance, slow down, gear up, stay straight and enjoy the ride safely because there will always be more great day rides, too!