Naval Air Station Jacksonville Kicks Off Motorcycle Awareness Month

Story Number: NNS110514-04Release Date: 5/14/2011 7:20:00 AM
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By Clark Pierce, Naval Air Station Jacksonville Public Affairs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Motorcycle safety advocates from law enforcement, education, motorcycle clubs and base leadership gathered May 10 aboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, Fla., to highlight the importance of training motorcycle drivers.

Lt. Bill Leeper, a Florida Highway Patrol representative, informed the audience that Florida has more than one million drivers with the motorcycle endorsement on their license, and one-third of them completed a basic motorcycle rider training course that helped prepare them for a lifetime of safe riding.

"Governor Rick Scott declared May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, so we want to take this opportunity to come together as riders, industry members, safety advocates and law enforcement to stress the importance of how education and awareness to save lives," said Leeper.

In Florida's Duval County alone, there are more than 42,500 endorsed riders.

"Since July 1, 2008, first-time riders in Florida are required to complete a basic rider course prior to receiving their license endorsement to operate a motorcycle. Results have been positive as motorcycle crash fatalities in Florida have dropped 35 percent in the past five years," said Leeper. "Today, we have partnered with NAS Jacksonville to recognize the focus that our nation's military has placed on motorcycle safety. Not only do they provide driver training to service members who ride - they also require military riders to wear protective gear above and beyond what the law requires."

"Our station is proud to join the Florida Highway Patrol and Jacksonville Sheriff's Office to stress smart motorcycle riding through education, as well as safety measures designed to prevent accidents and minimize injuries," said Cmdr. Jim Debold, NAS Jacksonville's operations officer. "With the Navy's '101 Days of Summer' safety campaign just around the corner, this joint news conference could not come at a better time. Our commanding officer, Capt. Jeffrey Maclay, encourages all leaders and military personnel aboard the base to continue to be proactive at increasing motorcycle safety awareness."

"NAS Jax is recognized for having one of the most proactive motorcycle training programs in the Navy. The base also has a motorcycle simulator, so Sailors considering the purchase of a motorcycle can experience real-world traffic from the two-wheel point of view before they buy," said DeBold.

Statistics show a positive trend in motorcycle safety as a result of the Navy's defensive driving program. In 2008, there were 33 motorcycle fatalities Navywide with three of them coming from NAS Jacksonville. In 2010, there was a marked reduction to 13 fatalities.

Hospital Corpsman Frankie Pace talked about the value of Navy motorcycle safety courses. He recently bought a sport/touring bike and took the opportunity to get familiar with it at an NAS Jacksonville sport bike rider class.

"The training means more when you're riding your own bike. The instructors are very knowledgeable, both in the classroom and on the driving range. The range provides a safe environment for riders to learn their bike's handling characteristics under acceleration and braking. Bottom line - whether you ride for basic transportation or recreation, these courses make you a better driver," said Pace.

"Education is the key to preventing motorcycle mishaps - so in addition to our basic rider course, we created experienced rider and sport bike courses. Last year, we trained about 850 riders and this year we're already at 600 in just five months. But the best measures of our success are those graduates who stop by and tell us that what they learned in our classes helped them avoid a life-threatening situation on the highway,"
said Ron Williamson, NAS Jackonsville's safety officer.

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