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Curbing Motorcycle Fatalities in 2024

Curbing Motorcycle Fatalities in 2024

Directorate of Analysis and Prevention
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
Fort Novosel, Alabama

Despite increased messaging warning Soldiers of the dangers of riding a motorcycle, FY23 was the worst year in a decade for fatal PMV-2 (motorcycle) mishaps. The Army saw 38 Soldiers die in motorcycle mishaps in FY23 — well above the five-year average from FY18-22 of 24 fatalities a year. This is truly significant when it is estimated that only 12-15% of the Army population are motorcycle riders.

Many of these mishaps were entirely preventable. At least 37% of the motorcycle mishaps in FY23 involved an error on the part of the operator, and more are suspected, with speed as the most common form of rider indiscipline. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcyclists are 28 times more likely to die in a crash than other motorists on the road. Below are some recent examples of Soldiers who lost their lives through undisciplined riding, along with key takeaways and resources to help you engage in serious discussions with your motorcycle riders and their riding habits.

Watch your speed

Law enforcement officers witnessed two Soldiers doing wheelies on their motorcycles on an off-post roadway. As they proceeded through a traffic signal at a high rate of speed, one Soldier collided head-on with a RAM pickup. The Soldier was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The reckless disregard for posted speed limits and other motorists directly contributed to this Soldier’s death. The road is not your personal speedway. No amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) will save you from a high-speed head-on collision with a 2-ton truck. We can’t say this enough: SPEED KILLS!

Abide by the rules

A Soldier was weaving his motorcycle in and out of traffic at a high rate of speed when he broadsided a motorist making a left-hand turn before striking a second vehicle head-on. Needless to say, the motorcyclist was pronounced dead on arrival when the emergency medical personnel got him to the hospital. Riding a motorcycle is already a dangerous activity. Why add to that danger by being an undisciplined rider? This Soldier was wearing all the appropriate PPE and trained to ride safely but failed to use sound judgment and obey the law. You know the rules, so abide by them.

Once was not enough

A Soldier operating a Yamaha YZF-R1, which is capable of 186 mph out of the box, was speeding when he attempted to overtake a civilian pickup in a no-passing zone. As the civilian motorist slowed and began a left-hand turn, the motorcycle clipped the left-rear corner of the truck, resulting in the Soldier’s death. Just five months earlier, this same Soldier was involved in a motorcycle mishap that resulted in a fractured wrist! Once again, no amount of PPE will protect a rider if they choose to ride undisciplined. Use sound judgment and learn from your mistakes. Always obey posted speed limits and understand why those double-yellow lines are painted on the road. They could warn of hazards, such as hills or curves, that limit your visibility of the road ahead.

Know your limits

A Soldier was operating his motorcycle late at night at a high rate of speed when he failed to negotiate a curve. The motorcycle crossed the centerline, struck a traffic sign on the opposite side of the road and entered a ditch. The Soldier was ejected from the motorcycle, went airborne and struck a utility pole and a second traffic sign before coming to a rest. The Soldier died in the ditch. This Soldier would still be with us had he just followed his motorcycle training. When approaching a curve, slow your speed so you remain in control of the motorcycle. Remember, when it’s dark, you can outrun your headlights and fail to see the dangers along the roadway if you’re traveling too fast.

Key takeaways

Riders, these mishaps were entirely preventable. At least 37% of the 38 fatal motorcycle mishaps in FY23 involved an error on the part of the operator. Speed was the most common error, followed by alcohol use and a couple of operators with no training or license.

Slow down! Speed limits are there for a reason, the biggest being to keep us all safe. Operating within the posted speed limits gives you and the rest of us time to react to unanticipated events. Please remember that speed kills! If you want to explore the limits of your skills and your motorcycle’s capabilities, do it in a controlled and supervised venue such as a track event. Odds are you will become a better rider. Operating on a track is safer because:

  • There is much less chance of unpredictable conditions. You are running that same loop over and over.
  • That loop has been inspected for safety, such as the removal of debris and marking problem areas that can't be moved.
  • They are purposely built with engineered runoff areas, like gravel traps, wide/long grass and protected fences vs. the guardrails, buildings and oncoming vehicles riders see on the open road.
  • All traffic is traveling the same direction, and no other vehicles are bigger than another bike.
  • There are stricter minimum gear standards. You're not getting out on a track without a full suite of gear. Some organizations even check out your ride as part of your tech inspection.
  • EMS/paramedics are onsite. Should there be a bad accident, there's at least one ambulance with a crew of two or more right there.

Also, don’t ride impaired. Remember, never operate a motorcycle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It is illegal for a reason. Alcohol and drugs severely impact reaction time, which is the last thing you need while operating a motorcycle.

For more motorcycle safety resources, check out the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center website, which has a motorcycle safety section under the Off-Duty PMV-2 (Motorcycles) tab. Visit it at https://safety.army.mil/OFF-DUTY/PMV-2-Motorcycles.

  • 14 January 2024
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 624
  • Comments: 0
Categories: Off-DutyPMV-2