U.S. Military Setup Track Day Events to Combat Rising Motorcycle Fatalities

Pilot Project May do More Harm than Good

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The United States Military have seen a drastic increase in motorcycle crash fatalities amongst their personnel in the last year. In 2008, the U.S. Army saw a 24% increase in motorcycle accident deaths.  To try and curb this trend, the military are setting up experimental “Track Day” events to try and help educate motorcycle riders about safety and give riders an area for them to let loose on their bikes and become more comfortable with them.

A Track Day event is a essentially an area on a military base where riders can push the limits of their bike and also have instructors that can give tips and advice that could save their lives.  The logic is also that a rider will get more comfortable in a safe and controlled environment and be able to manage their bike better when they are out in the real world.

Safety specialist Mario Diprete says the course lets riders literally test their limits. “Out here is the time to run hot and wide into a turn and feel how uncomfortable it makes you,” he says. “And you learn from it and you don’t do it again — or you learn how to recover from it.”

Instructors stand in the middle of the tarmac, pulling riders over, giving them quick advice and sending them back onto the course. Without guard rails, utility poles, parked cars or curbs on the course, riders have a much better chance of surviving the lesson.

The military is only doing this for a trial period and are keeping a close eye on results.  Having a motorcyclist more comfortable with their bike at higher speeds could lead to more risk taking and a bigger increase in motorcycle accidents.  Track Day events will be dropped if this is the case.

[ Source: U.S. Military Combats Rising Motorcycle Fatalities ]
[ Image source: http://www.navytimes.com ]

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  • Rider

    OK, I’ll take the bait.

    RE: “Having a motorcyclist more comfortable with their bike at higher speeds could lead to more risk taking and a bigger increase in motorcycle accidents.”

    The Pentagon and USMC safety chiefs in particular are still betting otherwise.

    They are aware of this objection. A Marine Corps safety guy at the Pentagon told me competence is not a drawback for their personnel who are taking risks either way. Further, he said, the USMC thinks the high speed stuff might even take the allure out of riding like a nut on the street, at least for most/some.

    Some of their opinion is coming from professional track days organizers who say “up to 70 percent” of riders who get a real taste of riding their sport bikes at full speed on tracks realize what a comparative joke the street is.

    These riders realize it’s so much better on the track, and realize the risks they take flying on streets are not worth it.

    So, until proven otherwise, the Marines are officially banking on this possibility, while fully aware of other possibilities.

    And I’ll add this: Having raced at several racetracks myself, and personally having an R1 which wheelies at 85 no problem, I know how limited I am on streets.

    Ain’t no way I’ll tip it over as far on the streets in my area, as I would on a track …

    And, yes, it is frustrating, but I’m not crazy.

    Speaking speculatively for others, every person knows when they are in over their head.

    Hopefully, they will not want to push it, if for anything, self survival’s sake.

  • Retired Airman

    I applaud the efforts of military leadership efforts to reduce motorcycle mishaps, particularly through training venues. The concept of advanced training or exposure to higher level maneuvers and techniques is common place in the military training environment. Aviators, weapon system operators, Special Operators, and every service person attend advance training. Aviation training routinely introduces pilots to the performance envelope of their systems and most importantly teaches them to avoid and recover from dangerous situations found on the other side of the envelope. The argument that advanced training promotes high risk behavior is faulty, in my opinion, high risk behavior on motorcycles already occurs without advanced training.

  • PeteP

    You guys read the comments on the NPR article? We are blessed to have only kpaul to worry about.

  • NJ

    I personally witnessed a young Marine die on his newly purchased R1 because he “panic braked”. It was obvious that he had no idea how to handle the rear brake because he catapulted himself into the slow moving vehicle in front of him. It’s a vision I will forever have, like a movie that replays’ in my head. This young man left behind a pregnant wife, his child will never know his/her father. Keep this program going…….it WILL save lives.
    RIP Steven Holder. God be with your family.
    NJ