MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Marines, sailors and Department of Defense employees from the Combat Center who ride, or are interested in riding motorcycles, participated in a safety brief at the base theater Oct. 17.
After the brief, more than 30 riders visited a crash site of a Marine who was killed in a motorcycle accident in Yucca Valley, Calif., to show them the importance of being safe while riding.
During the brief, guest speakers from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and the Palm Springs Police Department spoke about the hazards of riding and the best safety precautions while navigating the winding roads of California.
The beginning of the brief reviewed the required personal protective equipment from Marine Corps Order 5100.19E, such as helmets, long-sleeved, and long-legged clothes, full fingered gloves, hard-soled boots and a retro reflective vest.
All of the PPE is mandatory for anyone operating or riding as a passenger on a motorcycle on DoD installations, and for all military personnel regardless of whether they are operating or riding on or off installations, on or off-road and in uniform or civilian attire.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Fulgium, Marine Corps Communications-Electronics School motorcycle safety representative, went over all the required PPE and explained why it was important and how it keeps the riders safe while riding a motorcycle.
“Be careful while buying a helmet,” said Fulgium. “There are a lot of novelty helmets out there that will only get imbedded in your head if you crash.”
Helmets must meet the standards of Snell Memorial Foundation, the American National Standard Institute or the Department of Transportation.
Fulgium also suggested adding even more retro reflective stripes to riders’ arms and bike.
“When you’re riding a sport bike you are normally laying on your bike,” he said. “People in a car can’t see you, since you’re covering the stripes. I suggest putting more on the top of your back and on your arms.”
Fulgium also had tips for preferred footwear to help keep riders’ feet safe during a crash.
“The shoes are normally the first thing to go when you’re in a motorcycle accident,” said Fulgium. “That is why people should wear over the ankle boots to keep it from coming off so it protects your feet.
“I also see a lot of Marines wear their issued boots [in civilian attire],” continued Fulgium. “Those boots are definitely better than regular tennis shoes if you’re in a crash, but the material will be ripped apart easily in these road conditions.”
All Marine Message 014-08, which requires all Marines to notify their command within 48 hours of purchasing a motorcycle, was also discussed at the brief. If a Marine fails to notify their command, they are punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Anthony Harrison, with the motor operations section of the Palm Springs Police Department, gave many statistics about motorcycle deaths illustrating how dangerous motorcycle riding can be.
“Your are 35 times more likely to die on a motorcycle than in a car,” Harrison told the crowd. “The highest fatality group on motorcycles are people 20 to 29 years old, and there are 11 fatalities a day in California alone.
“When riding a sports bike you are 10 times more likely to die in a crash and an average rider needs 12 seconds to react. Most accidents occur in a split second,” he added.
Harrison also spoke to the group regarding the causes of most motorcycle accidents, which includes lack of riding skills, failure to familiarize themselves with a bike and unaware car drivers.
As the brief came to a close, participants had the opportunity to ask questions regarding motorcycle laws and regulations.
After the brief, Officer Raymond Camacho, traffic motor officer and a member of the major accident investigation team with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, led more than 30 riders from the base on a motorcycle ride to the crash site of a Marine recently killed in a motorcycle accident.
Camacho walked the group throughout the crash site, pointing out different areas of the wreckage, including where the Marine’s motorcycle landed more than 240 feet from impact.
He took the group to the curb where the skid mark from the bike was still present in the cement.
“The skid mark on the road has faded, but you can still see a darkened area where he impacted the curb,” explained Camacho. “You can also see the sign he hit had to be replaced with a new post.”
Camacho then walked the group farther down the road to a large boulder and tree where the Marine had impacted.
“You can see where he impacted the boulder and pushed it back a few inches,” said Camacho, pointing out the fact that the rider had still been travelling at a high rate of speed even though he was distant from the site of the actual crash.
During the tour, participants were able to ask Camacho questions regarding the accident and for tips to stay safer on the streets.
Motorcycle safety is a huge issue in the Marine Corps. Many Marines are dying because of motorcycle accidents. According to ALMAR 014/08, the Marine Corps lost 19 Marines in motorcycle accidents in fiscal year 2007, which is more than at any previous time in Marine Corps history.
The Marine Corps is implementing new safety courses for sport riders, and the Combat Center holds various motorcycle safety briefs and group rides to help promote motorcycle safety throughout the Combat Center.
Riders are strongly encouraged to keep their knowledge, skills and equipment in top condition. It may save your life.