What Will It Take?
CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER 4 TODD JACOBSON
D Company, 204 Military Intelligence Battalion
Fort Bliss, Texas
There I was, my company’s “temporary” untracked aviation safety officer, purposely speeding on my motorcycle after work. Worst of all, I was right in sight of my company! Looking back more than a decade later, I have to shake my head and ask, “Why would I do such a stupid thing?”
Neither then nor now could I provide a logical answer to that question. Was I a new motorcycle owner? No, I’d been riding sport bikes for more than seven years. Was I trained to ride a motorcycle properly? I sure was. I’d completed the Army-approved Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) Experienced RiderCourse (now known as the Advanced RiderCourse) more than once and also took the dirt bike course. Did I fit the demographic of an unsafe rider? Not completely. Although my age put me within the target demographic of Soldiers between the ages of 23 and 33, I was considered an experienced rider. I always wore my personal protective equipment and wasn’t labeled a high-risk Soldier. I was a chief warrant officer at the time and mentored many Soldiers in my company. Sure, I’d just come back from a deployment and perhaps felt the need to blow off some steam. However, I should’ve considered some other method for doing that. At the speeds I was traveling, had I been distracted or needed to make a slight correction, I’d have ended up the subject of an Army Preliminary Loss Report (PLR).
The thought of costing my unit some of its combat readiness wasn’t enough motivation to stop my high-risk activities. Despite the safety briefs I’d given or heard presented by my commander, I chose to push the limits on my bike. By my actions, I contradicted what I was telling my Soldiers. What finally snapped me back to reality was the thought of leaving my wife without a husband and my kids without a father. I didn’t want to miss spending the rest of my life with them.
So, what will it take for us to understand that when we push ourselves to the limit on our bikes, sooner or later we’re going to lose? Whether it’s safety videos, posters or articles put out by the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center (USACRC) or realizing our families are more important than our need for speed, we — especially us sport bike riders — need to change the way we ride. If we don’t, someone higher up will do it for us.
Look at the PLRs; the statistics don’t lie. Motorcycle mishaps and fatalities are a big safety concern. According to USACRC stats, in fiscal 2022, motorcycle accidents accounted for nearly 42 percent of the Army’s total off-duty mishap fatalities. Yet, it’s estimated that only about 15% of Soldiers are riders. Judging by this year’s Army motorcycle mishap fatality statistics to date, it doesn’t look like the problem is getting any better.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying we shouldn’t buy and ride motorcycles. I still ride and I love it. However, we need to choose to ride safely and responsibly. If we don’t, we might not get the option in the future.
The Army is losing too many Soldiers and, with the training we receive, we should be smarter than this. We’re provided the MSF’s training courses for free. When we return from deployments, we get refresher training. Still, for some reason, too many riders decide to test themselves by pushing their bikes to the limit. I was lucky, but statistics and PLRs show many riders are not.
I decided to discuss my mistakes openly to encourage others to ride responsibly. Fortunately, I wasn’t hurt and my wake-up call came in time to make a difference. Please don’t let yours come too late.