WASHINGTON — Marines who own motorcycles must register them with their commanders or face punishment, under new rules outlined by the Corps this week.

In a servicewide message, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway said the change was prompted by “alarming” rates of accidents among riders in recent months.

Eight Marines have died in motorcycle accidents since the start of the fiscal year, and in fiscal 2007, 19 Marines were killed, the highest yearly total since the Corps began keeping track in the mid-1990s.

“Recent trends indicate a culture of noncompliance among younger riders, in particular sport-bike riders,” Conway wrote. “These trends fall short of the professionalism I expect from all Marines.”

Previously, any Marine who bought a motorcycle was required to undergo safety training for the vehicle, including classes on proper driving and wear of personal protection equipment.

But officials said they had no way of tracking whether those who owned motorcycles were actually getting those classes, since Marines who kept their vehicles off base didn’t have to report them to unit leaders.

Under the new rules, all Marines who buy a motorcycle have 48 hours to notify their commanding officers, so they can confirm the proper licenses, insurance and training are taken care of. Those who ignore the rules can face disciplinary action, at the unit commander’s discretion.

“Motorcycle ownership is a significant responsibility,” Conway wrote. “Prior to purchasing a motorcycle, all Marines will consult with their leadership in advance to be certain that they are aware of the responsibilities that come with ownership.”

The new rules apply to Marines worldwide, officials said. Marines can also face punishment if they are caught riding without helmets, or caught not using their seatbelt in other vehicles.

Defense Department rules mandate safety training and protective equipment for all military motorcycle riders, but so far the Marines are the only service to require registration of the vehicles with installation commanders.

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