Motorcycle Safety: The Smart Road Starts With You

May 1, 2012 | By darylsmith

By Tony Militello, P.E., Safety Program Manager, NAVFAC, and BUCS(SCW/EXW) Jonathan E. Ring, Force Safety Officer, 1NCD, Naval Construction Forces Command

VIRIN: 120501-N-ZZ182-1567

It is no surprise that operating a motorcycle introduces a unique set of hazards outside of your control, and triggers the Operational Risk Management (ORM) decision-making process every time a choice is made. Motorcycle riding is a popular choice of our Seabees. However, it must be approached and executed with a time-critical risk management mindset from safe start to safe finish.

Recently two Seabees were killed in separate incidents while operating a motorcycle. Subsequent investigations revealed that both riders had completed the required training, were wearing all required personal protective equipment, and were riding within the speed limit, without distraction, fatigue, or influence of alcohol or controlled substance. The similarities don t stop there. In both cases, the accidents involved a collision with a motor vehicle one which struck the motorcyclist, and another which entered the roadway in front of the motorcycle at reduced speed leaving insufficient distance for the motorcyclist to slow or stop safely.

These two fatalities underscore that operating a motorcycle is a high-risk activity. Unfortunately, it is not always enough to complete required training, dress in personal protective equipment and verify the working condition of the motorcycle before you hit the open road. Rather, you must always be vigilant of the dynamic nature of motorcycle operation changing environments and conditions and other motor vehicle operators sharing the road, just to name a few as the ride continues.

Motorcycle accident information from the Naval Safety Center suggests three key areas where a rider s situational awareness must be on the highest alert: roadway intersections; curves and turns; and roadway construction, including uneven surfaces and debris. Critical to successfully proceeding through these areas is increased operator vigilance. Rather than simply cruising through these areas, riders must begin to check all potential trouble spots and anticipate conflicts, including the mistakes of those around you, before they arise.

Finally, motor vehicle operators have an equally important role in traffic safety. More and more frequently, drivers are becoming distracted by telephone conversations, text messaging, fatigue, and alcohol/medication/illegal substance use. These distractions impair a driver's ability to accurately assess stopping distance and reaction speed/time, potentially making roadways unsafe for motorists, motorcyclists and pedestrians alike.

Additional resources for helping manage your personal or your unit s motorcycle safety program can be found at the following sites: Naval Safety Center Motorcycle Safety Information Motorcycle Safety Representative Playbook