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KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Beginning Jan. 1, inexperienced motorcycle riders on Kadena Air Base will have new rules they must follow.

Riders who have had no previous experience may ride only motorcycles with four-stroke engines of less than 600 cc and with two-stroke engines of less than 200 cc, according to a memorandum from Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Remington, 18th Wing commander. The new policy applies to all Air Force personnel covered by the status of forces agreement, including civilians and family members.

“Inexperienced motorcyclists riding oversized bikes are at the greatest risk of being in an accident and becoming a fatality,” Remington said in the memorandum. “In an effort to prevent such tragedies, we are implementing certain common-sense measures” designed to give inexperienced motorcycle riders needed training and experience “before progressing to larger bikes.”

Persons who can prove they have prior experience on motorcycles can purchase larger bikes, according to Lt. Col. Tim Miller, 18th Wing safety chief. Types of proof to be accepted are a state driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement, a Motorcycle Safety Foundation card or evidence of other DOD motorcycle safety course completion.

Miller said the change was made after a rash of 2002 accidents caused several deaths and the loss of one servicemember’s legs. A total of 23 Air Force servicemembers died in motorcycle accidents in fiscal year 2003, and two have died so far this fiscal year. He said the statistics showed that many accidents involved inexperienced riders making their first purchase of a “superbike.”

For less than the price of a car, he said, “you can buy a super-bike. These bikes can outperform any car on the street. Many of the people buying the super-bikes are on their first tour and they’ve never ridden before.”

Miller said that although the new large-bike riders took the base’s safety course, it focuses mostly on maneuvering, not how to ride safely at higher speeds.

“I’ve been riding for years, and you can’t just jump on a big bike and start riding, it’s not smart business,” he said. “You can still get hurt on a small bike but it’s not way too powerful.”

Miller said inexperienced riders still are prohibited from carrying passengers and still must wear mandatory safety gear — but after one year of riding smaller motorcycles, the then-experienced riders can move up to larger bikes.

For more information, call the 18th Wing Safety Office at DSN 634-7233.

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