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NAPLES, Italy — Call it a sort of baby-sitting — on two wheels.

In spite of a recent decrease in the number of motorcycle-related crashes the Navy logged at its European bases over the past three months, traffic safety managers in Naples, at least, are working through the last details of a new motorcycle mentorship program.

Basically, unlicensed motorcyclists who go through the bases’ three-day safety course to get licensed would have to ride the unruly Naples and surrounding area streets with a mentor before they could head out on their own, said Jim Dickinson, the Naval Support Activity Naples traffic safety specialist and lead motorcycle instructor.

Planning isn’t complete, so officials don’t have details yet, such as how many “mentorship” hours might be required or when the program requirement will start, he said.

The three-day operator’s course, done in a controlled environment without real-world hazardous conditions, doesn’t really provide drivers with all the skills to keep safe on the roadways — especially Italy’s roadways — in spite of the low accident rate, Dickinson said.

“Our riders pay closer attention when they’re out there, and I think that’s what has kept the number down,” he said. “We want to see them kept low.”

Driving conditions in Naples differ drastically from those in the States, Dickinson said, citing narrow cobblestone roads, potholes, poor to nonexistent water runoff systems, and the erratic driving of local motorists.

Among the six Navy installations in Europe, officials logged three motorcycles crashes in April, two in May and none in June, said Bill Turnbull, region safety manager for Commander, Navy Region Europe. None was fatal.

“They’re spread out and so few, so we can’t really tell if there is a trend, but the numbers have gone down and that’s good,” Turnbull said. “We’d like to think it’s because of our ‘Critical Days of Summer [program].’”

Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Navy safety officials beef up safety messages because summer tends to be when more people travel, are out and about longer and participate in more outdoor and sporting activities, Turnbull said.

The number of registered motorcyclists in Navy Region Europe increased this year over last. As of May, the date for which most recent figures are available, the number was 756, up from 726 in fiscal 2006.

This summer, Air Force and Navy tightened helmet regulations, banning half-helmets. The U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Navy Region Europe are requiring motorcycle drivers and riders to wear helmets that meet Economic Community of Europe standards instead of American standards.


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