1st AD motorcyclists in Europe grounded until they undergo training
Senior leaders in U.S. Army Europe are showing soldiers that months of warnings about practicing better motorcycle safety were not empty threats.
With five USAREUR motorcycle fatalities — including one on Saturday — and several injuries in the past five months, leaders have implemented safety spot checks, and the 1st Armored Division has prohibited all soldiers from riding motorcycles until training and counseling are completed.
In a “Bell Sends” message Monday on the USAREUR Web site, commander Gen. B.B. Bell called for leaders to take any action necessary to prevent motorcycle accidents, including using their authority “to suspend the licenses of those who show a lack of good judgment when it comes to riding a motorcycle.”
The day before Bell’s message, 1st Armored Division Commander Maj. Gen. Doug Robinson grounded all of the division’s approximately 400 licensed motorcycle riders as a result of the accident Saturday, said Capt. Kristin Morrow, a 1st AD spokeswoman.
“Under the policy, units cannot release riders back to riding until they believe they have been adequately trained and are responsible enough to ride,” Morrow said.
Riders must take required training from unit leaders and get validation from their battalion commanders before they can take to the road again, Morrow said.
Robinson’s policy requires the division’s company commanders to personally brief motorcycle riders on risks before each long holiday weekend, she said.
The afternoon of Bell’s message, U.S. Army Garrison Hessen implemented safety spot checks on all riders entering its installations and random checks on those leaving installations, said Lt. Col. Dan Hulsebosch, director of emergency services for USAG Hessen.
The initiative has since been implemented at all Installation Management Agency-Europe Region (IMA-Euro) installations, said Kim Walz, IMA-Euro spokeswoman.
For the spot checks, contracted security guards check for military identification and motorcycle driver’s license and that the driver is wearing proper safety equipment, Hulsebosch said.
Although the security guards do not have the authority to detain anyone, they can hold the driver’s ID and license, Hulsebosch said. The guards contact military police and the driver could get a ticket, which would then require some type of action from the soldier’s company commander, he said.
He added that a few people had been caught on the random checks for not wearing proper footwear or shatterproof eye protection and that one soldier caught during a spot inspection was not even licensed to drive a motorcycle.
One motorcycle rider, who has experienced the spot checks but is not from 1st AD, said the safety checks and training were a good idea, as long as they were done right.
“I agree that there needs to be more education for motorcycle riders and also car drivers who don’t pay attention to motorcycles on the road,” said Tyrone Dallas, a civilian employee in Stuttgart. “I can understand that they grounded all the motorcycle riders, because that’s how the military does things. But if they ground the riders and then don’t use qualified motorcycle instructors available to them for the training, then that’s defeating the purpose. A company commander or first sergeant who is not qualified can’t teach about motorcycle safety any more than I could go in and teach a bunch of grounded pilots about aircraft safety.”