KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, spring officially begins March 20, when the sun passes over the Earth’s equator and heads north, also known as the spring equinox. For many, seeing the flowers begin to bloom, longer days and warmer weather are signs that it is on its way.
The rumble of motorcycle engines revving, kids playing outside, and the buzzing of lawnmowers and weed trimmers begin to resonate through the air. Spring is the start for many motorcycle riders to dust off their bikes and start thinking about opportunities to hit the open road. It is a great time for all who look forward to heading to the great outdoors to revel in warmer weather or even those that find solace in yard work.
Along with the fun comes the risks involved as riders jump on their bikes for possibly the first time since the previous season. During fiscal year 2021, the Department of the Air Force witnessed a 32% increase in motorcycle fatalities over the previous year. The pandemic played a factor in these losses contributing to reduced training availability and decreased supervisor involvement with new and existing riders.
Looking to curb the trend, the Air Force Safety Center sparked the #DAFRider video series giving riders another avenue to acquire skills, learn standards and build the rider mentality.
The #DAFRider video series is introduced by Maj. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, Department of the Air Force chief of safety, as part of the Motorcycle Preseason Kickoff video where she urges all Airmen and Guardian riders to be prepared to ride … before they ride.
“We want all Air Force and Space Force riders to have access to as many training venues, on and off the range, as they can,” said David Brandt, Department of the Air Force motorcycle safety program manager. “The goal of the series is to educate riders on current standards, riding techniques, things to avoid, and encourage skills-building.”
The series is intended to help motorcycle riders with lessons learned and illicit ideas on riding topics to highlight throughout the year. For more information check out the #DAFRider webpage at https://www.safety.af.mil/Divisions/Occupational-Safety-Division/Air-Force-Rider/
Being prepared is half the battle when it comes to motorcycles or spring safety. Even though winter weather is on its way out, spring has its own set of hazards to consider. Weather can be unpredictable in any season so be ready for those spring showers, wind or lightning strikes that occur without warning.
Depending on where you live in the world, remember Mother Nature can be deadly due to events like floods, tornados, lightning strikes or heat waves. Being prepared can mean the difference between life and death. The National Weather Service is one tool that can help you stay informed on storms in your area and tips for each type of situation. https://www.weather.gov/wrn/spring-safety
An important step in ride preparation is to ensure your motorcycle is roadworthy before you plan to use it; check tires and wheels, chassis, lights and electronics, along with oil and stands.
Many injuries and fatalities are the result of riders not taking into account the importance of what they wear while on the bike. Always ride with the right personal protective gear and anticipate the need for additional gear in case of weather changes.
Mental preparation is another key factor for every ride. Running through possible risk scenarios beforehand and getting plenty of rest before hitting the open road will result in better response to hazards and a safer experience.
“We want riders to be the best they can be, every time they ride and that takes practice,” said Brandt. “We hope this series will encourage riders to practice every time they ride to improve their skills … before they need to be used.”
Yard work has its own hazards to mitigate. Lawnmowers and weed trimmers can be dangerous. Touch their moving parts can result in severe injury or death. Additionally, clearing objects like rocks or toys is important or they can become projectiles launched in the air when struck.
Remember, dehydration can occur just as likely in warm weather as in hot weather, so hydrate before, during, and after any activities whether inside or outside.
If planning to participate in water activities like boating at the lake, river or ocean reduce the risk of drowning by wearing a life preserver at all times and refrain from drinking alcohol.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention every year in the United States there are an estimated 3,960 fatal unintentional drownings, including boating related drownings. For children ages 1-14, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional death. https://www.cdc.gov/drowning/facts/index.html
“As we spend more time outside this spring, I want every Airman and Guardian to think about what risks are involved in everything we do,” said William Walkowiak, chief of occupational safety for the Department of the Air Force. “Whether you are riding a motorcycle, doing yard work, or exploring nature, one poor decision can result in catastrophe and one Airman or Guardian lost is one too many.”
For additional information on spring safety: https://www.safety.af.mil/Divisions/Occupational-Safety-Division/Spring-Safety/