Training vital to preventing motorcycle mishaps Published March 15, 2021 By Jessie Perkins Air Force Safety Center KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The Department of the Air Force is kicking off the third annual Spring PMV-2 Focus on March 21, with the goal of reaching 100% of all military motorcycle riders. Efforts will concentrate on updating rider information in the Motorcycle Unit Safety Tracking Tool (MUSTT), including validation that training requirements are being met and ensuring all riders schedule and attend overdue training. From novice to seasoned motorcycle rider, proper training can make a difference in the rider’s life and overall safety of those around. Riding a motorcycle is an inherently dangerous activity; however, the risks can be mitigated with preparation and awareness. The Department of the Air Force has recognized that the implementation of training based on a lifelong learning approach for its more than 23 thousand motorcycle riders, can and does work. “In fiscal year 2020, overall Class A-D motorcycle mishaps were down 20% compared to the five-year average,” said Master Sgt. Sarah Lenker, Air Force Safety Center Reports and Analysis Branch. “However, Class A’s were up by 30% in FY20, resulting in 14 fatalities compared to the average of 10 per year over the last five years.” “We believe the increased trend in PMV-2 mishaps is related to several factors,” said David Brandt, Air Force motorcycle program manager. “Shutdowns and course closures during the pandemic have made training less readily available this past year (2020), and the outreach to riders hasn’t been as effective.” “We are seeing an upward trend in mishaps for untrained riders,” Brandt said. “The spike can be a token of the quality of training and education we typically provide.” “As motorcycle riders, we assume a much higher risk than typical drivers and we always hear “it’s not if, it’s when” but how many actually take that seriously,” said Senior Master Sgt. Eric Haselby, superintendent, Conventional Weapons Safety at AFSEC. “Riding a motorcycle can be a very rewarding experience, but it is also a gamble, and the odds are against us.” Brandt also explained that when training courses come back online over the next few months, the expectation is that those training sessions will continue to prove that training works and reduces mishaps. “This spike has shown what a lack of training and outreach can produce,” he said. “The Traffic Safety and Outreach Branch is making adjustments,” said Brandt. “We are developing new and exciting products for the Department of the Air Force motorcycle program that will better assist our Major Commands, Field Commands, Wings, and Motorcycle Safety Representatives to get training and education back on the map for our riders.” “During this annual focus, protecting our riders is a joint effort and everyone has a part within the program to help prevent needless deaths,” said Michael Ballard, Department of the Air Force chief of Occupational Safety. “This includes motorcycle instructors, riders, safety staffs, commanders and supervisors.” “As a senior leader and rider I applaud leadership at every level that take motorcycle education and training seriously,” said Haselby. “Open communication with riders and motorcycle training validation are invaluable, and the Spring Focus is an excellent reminder to ensure these are accomplished. Updating MUSTT rider profiles along with Level I and Level II training are the main goals of this year’s campaign. The Motorcycle Unit Safety Tracking Tool provides training data for military motorcycle riders and fills the requirements for monitoring both rider demographics and training outlined in Air Force Instruction 91-207, U.S. Air Force Traffic Safety Program. The data collected and analyzed helps the Department of the Air Force make informed decisions about future training, tracking tools, and guidance needed to keep Airmen and Guardians safe while riding motorcycles, by making sure they receive the right training, at the right time, with the right bike. Initial training (Level I) takes the rider from zero motorcycle knowledge to being able to balance and ride safely in traffic. This course is within 30-days of request and applicant must have a motorcycle permit or license to attend. However, initial training is not required if the Airman or Guardian already has a motorcycle license or endorsement. Intermediate training (Level II) helps the rider polish up their basic skills and helps with personal risk assessment. Exercises done on the motorcycle range from enhancing basic operating skills to crash-avoidance skills, along with putting emphasis on improving braking and cornering. This training is provided within 60-days of request, but never more than one year after completing initial training or being identified as a licensed rider. Every five years sustainment training, also called a refresher course, is required. Any approved course taken will meet this training requirement. “The Department of the Air Force has lost too many service members to motorcycle accidents over the past few years,” said Brandt. “Quality products and training will help us recover this year and strive for 2019 numbers; the lowest rates we’ve seen.” “Safely riding a motorcycle doesn’t mean not having fun while riding. It means having a safety mindset and being physically prepared for riding challenges,” said Brandt. “We want Airmen and Guardians to keep their training current, practice safe riding skillsets, ensure they are mentally prepared to mitigate inherent risks, and always wear all required personal protective equipment on every ride, no matter how short or long the ride might be.” Service Major Commands and Field Commands are responsible for implementing the requirements and validating that their installation commanders provide the prescribed traffic safety training to their personnel. “No rider can care more about their own wellbeing than that rider. Only the rider can decide how important it is to get home to loved ones and in what condition they arrive,” said Master Sgt. Angélica Mendoza, Occupational Safety assistant manager for the Air National Guard, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. “I hope riders always arrive safely.” Mendoza currently works with 90 units to ensure they have the necessary resources and guidance to properly train riders, and document their training in MUSTT. Mendoza explained that implementation of training during the pandemic has proven difficult for Occupational Safety Managers. “Most of wings went to essential staff only, with an emphasis on their particular mission,” she said. “We will continue working with our units to ensure they have the support and tools needed to complete and document training.” Unit commanders, within each MAJCOM and Field Command, appoint Motorcycle Safety Representatives, in an additional duty capacity, to monitor the program. These MSRs are vital to the program’s success because they validate riders’ records for their unit in the Motorcycle Unit Safety Tracking Tool database and assist riders with scheduling and attending training. The focus will run through May 21, for more information visit the Air Force Safety Center’s website at: https://www.safety.af.mil/Divisions/Occupational-Safety-Division/Air-Force-Rider/Spring-PMV-2-Focus/.