Motorcycle safety draws crowd to K-town
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Troops shed their uniforms and berets for bandannas and leather Friday during the Kaiserslautern military community motorcycle safety day and mentorship ride.
More than 100 riders — soldiers, airmen, Germans and even a few Belgians — gathered at Kapaun Air Station motorcycle course on the most ominous of dates to learn about motorcycle safety and pass along knowledge to new riders.
“It’s Friday the 13th,” said Army Master Sgt. Bruce Carlson, who organized the event along with John Rice. “Let’s not have any jinxes.”
The event marked the first time that a gathering of so many riders assembled in the KMC to focus on safety. And for good reason.
Motorcycle fatalities have risen dramatically since fiscal 2004.
n From fiscal 2004 to 2006, nine U.S. Army Europe soldiers died in motorcycle crashes.
n Armywide, 14 soldiers died in motorcycle wrecks during a 45-day span last spring.
n Since Oct. 1, 2006, 11 soldiers Armywide have died in motorcycle wrecks. Of those 11 fatalities, all were male, and at least five of them were 30 or older, according to the Army’s Risk Management Information System.
The statistics help explain why Carlson and other rider coaches spent Friday morning going over the right protective gear and clothing to wear, how to properly brake in an emergency, how to correctly execute a swerve and how to brake in a curve.
Army Master Sgt. Robert Smith, who owns a 2006 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, attended the Kaiserslautern event from Stuttgart with friends. When interviewed and asked how many years he’s been riding, Smith’s buddies threw a few verbal jabs.
As Smith said he’s been riding motorcycles for nine years, a friend yelled out that time on minibikes doesn’t count.
Smith recovered from the quips and took a serious tone.
“You have to respect the bike,” he said. “When you don’t respect the bike, it’s going to be a bad day.”
Senior Airman Kristopher Carroll and Airman 1st Class Lance Santos, who both are 21 and work on nearby Ramstein Air Base, were at the safety day to meet other riders.
Just last week, Carroll learned some valuable lessons during a Motorcycle Safety Foundation class at Kapaun. Even though he dropped his motorcycle last week while on the course, he was not mad.
“I’d rather drop it out here than doing 80 or 100 (mph) on the autobahn,” he said.
The day’s finale was a 52-mile mentorship ride.
In addition to drawing public attention to the fact that with the nice weather more bikers will be on the roads, the purpose of the day was to give less-experienced riders the chance to see seasoned bikers doing the right things.
“So when less-experienced riders find themselves out there by themselves, they already have a picture of what right looks like,” Carlson said.