The numbers don't lie: Sport bike fatalities continue to rise in Air Mobility Command
by Master Sgt. Paul Fazzini
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. - "We've got to find a way to make it stop," said Col. David Miller, Air Mobility Command's new safety director, about the increased number of fatalities the command has experienced in 2005.
Last year, AMC experienced its worst year ever for fatalities, 14, with seven occurring during the 101 critical days of summer. This year, having just past the mid-way point of the summer, AMC already has 12.
"It's getting very serious," said Colonel Miller. "Within the first 12 days of July, AMC lost three of its members; two were sport-style motorcycle mishaps and the third was by drowning.
"We're losing members needlessly on our nation's highways, and we're doing so at a time when every Airman is needed to fight the war on terrorism," he said.
Alcohol continues to play a factor in some of the fatalities, with four confirmed cases. But, safety officials say it's the increase in sport bike mishaps that has them concerned the most.
"We're not targeting the motorcycle riders; we're concerned about their safety," said Richard Garsnett, AMC's Traffic Safety manager. "Six of the 12 fatalities this year are sport bike related; and it's not always the inexperienced riders who are dying."
According to reports, some riders who lost their lives on the road had eight to 10 years riding experience. One rider, however, had only 25 days of riding experience; and that rider's supervisor wasn't even aware his troop owned a bike.
"Sport bike riders often ride for the thrill," said Mr. Garsnett, "but when a mishap occurs, that ride ends in depression for their entire family, friends and co-workers."
He said that in many cases, the fatalities are occurring within one year of purchase of the motorcycle.
"The one year seems to provide just enough time for riders to feel comfortable with the bike. Unfortunately, it also promotes a state of over confidence in riding skills," he said.
"Today's riding environment seems to encourage the dare devils among the 18- to 25-year-old Airmen, where all too often, friends are pressuring the Airmen to ride on one wheel or exceed posted speed limits."
For that reason, Gen. John W. Handy, AMC commander, is following the chief of staff of the Air Force's lead in encouraging commanders to evaluate motorcycle activities and the risks their riders are exposed to.
"We need commanders to spend some one-on-one time with the motorcycle riders in their respective units. Commanders set the tone for risk management in their organizations," said General Handy. "By spending time with motorcycle riders in their unit, they'll be able to project not only how important responsible riding is, but also how important that Airman is to the team; that accomplishing the mission takes a total team effort."
According to Doug Morton, AMC chief of Ground Safety, people are not learning from others' mistakes. That's evident at a couple of AMC bases experiencing more than one motorcycle-related fatality. Speed in cornering, he said, is a significant factor.
"The ugly unknown is just around the corner, and our riders aren't slowing down enough to allow them to react safely to the countless number of road hazards they might find," said Mr. Morton.
In addition to commanders spending one-on-one time with riders, the AMC Safety team is taking a fresh look at motorcycle programs, training, and supervisory involvement; all in hopes of preventing even one more fatality. They're also encouraging Airmen to get involved in local motorcycle clubs where advice from experienced riders is offered in a mentorship kind of way. With 10 weeks remaining in the fiscal year, the AMC safety director is focusing resources to turn the tide so that 2005 will not end up as the worst on record.
"We cannot duplicate last year," said Colonel Miller. "We've got to save those two lives. To do so, personal risk management must be part of every Airman's mindset. Taking just a few moments to consider the potential risks could save their life."
The director is also asking supervisors to utilize the safety tools the headquarters staff provided at the start of the 101 CDS safety campaign. The tools can be obtained by visiting their Web site at https://private.amc.af.mil/101cds/index.cfm. There, links to senior leader messages, ORM tips, and posters for raising awareness can be downloaded or viewed. (Courtesy of Air Mobility Command News Service)