Traffic Accidents Still Plaguing Military Services

Excessive speed and fatigue are among the causes of motorcycle and automobile fatalities, and alcohol-related accidents are a year-round concern.

Motorcycle and automobile accidents remain a top concern for U.S. military leaders, according to a Sept. 16 article penned by Jake Chappelle, who belongs to the public affairs team for the 446th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington State.

"This fiscal year, the Air Force has suffered nearly 50 off-duty fatalities, with half of these occurring during three-month Critical Days [of Summer] campaign, due to safety mishaps," Lt. Col. Russell Parker, 446th Airlift Wing flight safety officer, said in Chappelle's article. "A high percentage the summer fatalities were Airmen on motorcycles and in automobiles. This shows that traffic safety should be a concern going into the fall months."

Parker attributed the motorcycle deaths to excessive speed, loss of control, carelessness, and the use of motorcycles exceeding the riders' abilities. He said head-on collisions, loss of control due to higher rates of speed, and fatigue were causes of the automobile-related deaths. "[Motorcyclists] bite off more than they can chew by buying a bigger and faster bike," he said. "The average rider only needs a 500cc bike. They have enough power to maneuver and maintain speed on the highway and be able to pass slower vehicles if need be, and they also provide a good, solid ride. Anyone who rides a 1,500 to 1,800cc bike should have an experienced riders' course under their belt."

Parker said alcohol-related accidents are a year-round issue. "Thanksgiving is the number one DUI holiday, and Halloween is also up there," he said. Other hazards for motorcyclists and motorists alike are reduced visibility in fog conditions and fallen leaves mixing with rain and oil to make road surfaces slippery.

For tips on safe fall and winter driving, visit the American Automobile Association website at www.aaa.com or the Washington State Department of Transportation site, www.wsdot.wa.gov.

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