The summer months are fast approaching, and during Motorcycle Safety Month, the Air Force is warning motorcycle riders to take extra precaution before they ride out in the warm breeze.
"Riding a motorcycle is an inherently dangerous activity," said Capt. Andrew Schrag, spokesman at Air Combat Command. "We are committed to lowering our motorcycle incident rate and ensuring the safest possible riding experience for our members."
The command has experienced seven motorcycle fatalities in the first eight months of fiscal 2015, compared with only one death in all of the previous year, Schrag said. Throughout the Air Force, eight airmen have died in motorcycle accidents this fiscal year, compared with 13 in all of last year, according to data provided by Darlene Cowsert, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Safety Center.
Some 37,200 airmen, more than 10 percent of the force, ride these fast bikes, according to Cowsert. Airmen repeatedly need to be reminded that safety classes can only go so far, and helmets can't always protect against those random acts where decisions are made in split seconds: to swerve if an animal jumps into the road, a momentary distraction, and especially an oncoming or stopped vehicle.
One of the 2014 motorcycle fatalities was a qualified instructor at Beale Air Force Base, California, leading a motorcycle safety class ride.
Airman 1st Class Samuel W. F. Kinne, 9th Communication Squadron, crashed on a curve stretch of road last June and struck a sign, Schrag told Air Force Times in an email. Kinne was 24 years old.
"As this case highlights, even when taking necessary precautions, risk cannot be eliminated and accidents will still occur," Schrag said.
A motorcyclist is 26 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a traffic crash, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Although speed and alcohol consumption are large contributing factors to motorcycle accidents, the agency found that two-thirds of fatal motorcycle crashes involve a motorcycle and another vehicle. Motorists either do not see the oncoming motorcycle, or the motorist doesn't see the motorcycle in time to avoid a crash.
Airmen are encouraged to re-evaluate basic safety tips, such as the "3-GPS" steps. Check:
-- Gear: Motorcycle condition, drinking water, personal protective equipment.
-- Plan: Weather, route, letting a friend or family member know your route.
-- Skills: ask yourself if you've had enough experience or training and whether you're rested enough.
Abstaining from alcohol should be a top priority before heading out on the open road. Other tips include: Complete required Air Force motorcycle training at a designated installation; maintain safe speeds and distance while driving; and try to ride with a wingman.
For those sharing the road with motorcycles, ACC ground safety superintendent Senior Master Sgt. Derrick Mitchell says to look and think twice.
"When you see a motorcycle, take a few seconds to anticipate its speed before you pull out in front of it," Mitchell said in the release. "And remember, one careless mistake could cost the life of someone."