By Scott Prater
One hundred twenty eight Airmen lost their lives in motorcycle crashes between 2003 and 2008. That’s 46 more Airmen than were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined during the same span.
Maj. Louis Fletcher, Advanced Space Operations School, highlighted that fact during a motorcycle safety news event April 23 held at Skyview Sports Complex.
“That number sticks in my mind,” he said. “It lets me know that we need to gain a better environment so we can take care of each other.”
Major Fletcher joined state and local law enforcement officials as a means for kicking off the Air Force’s Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, which begins May 1.
During the event, officials announced some alarming findings from our area.
El Paso County had the highest number of motorcycle fatalities in the state last year (15), and motorcycle deaths represented 18 percent of traffic fatalities during 2008, despite representing only 3 percent of registered vehicles.
Including Colorado Springs Police Chief Richard Myers, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa and Fort Carson Deputy Commander Col. B. Shannon Davis, officials stepped to a podium and spoke about how motorcycle incidents have specifically impacted the state, county, city and local military installations. All of their speeches centered on a few common themes: riders take a greater risk of injury or death when they ride without helmets, fail to dress appropriately and mix alcohol with riding.
Nearly seven out of 10 riders killed in Colorado last year were not wearing a helmet or were wearing it incorrectly, and more than one-third of riders killed in motorcycle crashes were under the influence of alcohol according to a report released by the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Major Fletcher attended and spoke as means for kicking off the Air Force’s Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, which begins May 1.
He emphasized how motorcycle riding clubs like the Green Knights Motorcycle Ridging Club can help curb fatalities and traffic mishaps in a major way.
“The Green Knights provides rider training, inspections and mentorship, something young riders or beginners should really take advantage of,” he said. “Green Knights members have multiple years of experience and possess the ability to pass on instructional and safety tips that really make a difference.”
Maj. Mark Goehring, 50th Operations Group Operational Wing Transition Team deputy director, is one of many Schriever Airmen who have joined the Green Knights. He helped demonstrate safe-riding attire for media members and attendees.
He recalled several of his own near-miss traffic incidents, including one a few years ago on a southern California highway.
“When I was stationed in California I had both wheels locked up and sliding on the [Highway] 101,” he said. “People had stopped on the highway for no apparent reason. I was looking ahead, and that’s probably the only thing that saved me. Out here, especially in the spring time with lots of sand on the roads, I’ve had some close calls, but nothing like that. Incidents like that one reinforce the idea of keeping a look out.”
Sharing his experiences is one way he helps younger, or less experienced riders avoid serious injuries.
“I joined the Green Knights because I wanted to help mentor people,” he said. “I know I’m not the world’s best rider, but I know I can do some things some people can’t. And, I wanted to express the idea that you need to be confident in knowing what your bike can do and knowing what your limits are. Some of my friends have been in accidents just because they didn’t know what their bike and what they themselves were capable of.”
Raising awareness about safe riding is the clear mission of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and Major Goehring went full bore with his interpretation of an unsafe rider.
Perched atop his customized chopper, he sat decked out in a beach shirt, cutoff shorts, flip-flops and sunglasses. His counterpart, (the safe rider) wore boots, sturdy clothing, a leather jacket with high-visibility vest, gloves and helmet.
Proper safety attire is just one of the keys Majors Goehring and Fletcher stress, both in safety events and with the Green Knights club.
“It comes down to being the change in the world we want to see,” Major Fletcher said. “We want people to ride, have fun and not hurt themselves by having the wrong type of training or equipment.”
All motorcycle riders are required to attend a safety class prior to riding on Schriever. Riders need to bring their Motorcycle Safety Foundation certification card and a receipt of payment to the safety office in building 210.
Visit the Schriever SharePoint Web site for information on required personal protective equipment, safety related videos and a list of places to obtain training. To get more information about the Green Knights here at Schriever, visit www.greenknights25.org.