Air Force leaders are stressing the importance of motorcycle safety amid a wintertime spike in road deaths.
Seven airmen died while riding motorcycles between Oct. 28, 2022, and Jan. 5, 2023, including four since Dec. 15, 2022, according to public Air Force Safety Center data.
They ranged in age from 25 to 35, and in rank from senior airman to technical sergeant. Three had not completed proper motorcycle training.
In comparison, 18 airmen died in motorcycle accidents in fiscal 2021 and 13 in fiscal 2020, according to the safety center.
The rate is unusual as fewer motorcyclists tend to ride in colder weather, lessening the likelihood of mishaps and fatalities, the Air Force said Jan. 12.
“Preliminary reports show these mishaps had contributory factors such as excessive speed, alcohol consumption, insufficient training, and improper or no personal protective equipment,” the Air Force said. “Most — if not all — of these mishaps were preventable.”
The service encouraged local units to pause operations and discuss motorcycle safety with their riders, similar to the sweeping standdown ordered in 2019 to address mental health and suicide.
It also reminded troops to finish their training, hold themselves accountable for their actions and avoid speeding or weaving through other vehicles.
In 2020, motorcyclists were about 28 times more likely than passenger vehicle riders to die in a crash, and four times more likely to be injured, according to the most recent available data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“Helmets are mandatory on and off base for airmen and guardians,” the service said. “Consider airbag vests, which can reduce blunt force trauma by up to 60 percent.”
“The use of proper PPE, including the airbag vest, could reduce mishap severity, or maybe even prevent injuries altogether,” it added.
The Air Force Safety Center offers educational resources for motorcyclists at https://www.safety.af.mil/Divisions/Occupational-Safety-Division/Air-Force-Rider/.
Rachel Cohen joined Air Force Times as senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in Air Force Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), the Washington Post, and others.