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Old 10-31-2008, 08:28 AM   #1 (permalink)
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genuinegirly's Avatar
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Marines & Motorcycles

Interesting article to have on the front page of CNN.com. I'm interested in hearing your perspectives on this article about motorcycle-related deaths among marines.

Are motorcycles an unnecessary danger for American troops, or is combat just calming down to the point where motorcycle deaths look like a bigger threat?

Link to article: Marine motorcycle deaths top their Iraq combat fatalities - CNN.com

Marine motorcycle deaths top their Iraq combat fatalities

From Larry Shaughnessy
CNN Pentagon Producer

QUANTICO, Virginia (CNN) -- Motorcycle accidents have killed more Marines in the past 12 months than enemy fire in Iraq, a rate that's so alarming it has prompted top brass to call a meeting to address the issue, officials say.

Twenty-five Marines have died in motorcycle crashes since last November -- all but one of them involving sport bikes that can reach speeds of well over 100 mph, according to Marine officials. In that same period, 20 Marines have been killed in action in Iraq.

The 25 deaths are the highest motorcycle death toll ever for the Marine Corps.

Gen. James Amos, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, told CNN that commanders are trying to drill down on what "we need to do to help our Marines survive on these sport bikes."

"The Marines are very serious about it," he said.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Art Tucker knows all too well about the dangers of sport bikes. An owner of a Kawasaki Ninja, Tucker has had two crashes, and the second one nearly killed him.

"I sustained a broken collar bone, I tore the shoulder out of the socket, I tore three ligaments in the shoulder, the rotator cuff, I broke three vertebrae," said Tucker, a drill instructor for new officers.

"The worst was a head injury I received: a bruised brain. And it caused hemorrhaging, and from that I had partial paralysis of the left leg, full paralysis of the left foot and toes, and that was for approximately six months."

Amos said he and other top Marine officials will spend half the day Monday "focusing on nothing but motorcycle issues." The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Conway, and other senior leadership will attend the meeting at the Quantico, Virginia, Marine base, he said.

About 18,000 of the nearly 200,000 Marines are believed to own motorcycles, Amos said.

The Marines have taken some measures. The Marine Corps has had a long-standing policy for all Marines who ride motorcycles to take a mandatory basic riding course. More recently, it added a second training course specifically designed to train Marines who ride sport bikes.

Any Marine caught riding, even on leave, without going through the training courses faces Marine Corps punishment, officials say.

On a recent day at the Quantico training track, Marines whizzed by on their bikes.

"I think the basic rider course has been great," said Cpl. Austin Oakley. "Here, they put you in situations you want to be wary of out in that open road."

Oakley said he recently returned to the United States from Japan, and he immediately jumped at the chance to buy a sport bike. He said it's not uncommon for Marines to have motorcycle clubs within their units.

"We'll go out on rides together. Fridays for lunchtime, we'll all meet up and go to lunch," Oakley said. "When I get on my motorcycle, it's me and the motorcycle. I don't need to go fast. I don't need to do anything like that. It's just being free."

The rise in motorcycle deaths isn't confined to Marines. The Navy says it's had 33 deaths on motorcycles over the past 12 months -- a 65 percent jump from the previous time period. And authorities say motorcycle deaths have been a problem in the civilian world, too.

Military officials say they're not sure why the deaths are on the rise. They initially believed the accidents might involve mostly young Marines and sailors around 18 or 19 years old. But Navy statistics show that five of the victims were 25, the most prevalent of any age involved in the crashes. And two 40-year-old sailors were killed in motorcycle crashes.

Gen. Amos said the Marines have seen a similar trend.

But he says the new training seems to be working: Of the 300 young men and women who have gone through the sport-bike course, only three have had accidents.

The safety course instructors said some Marines who go through the training decide the sport bike is not for them.

But even some Marines who've survived past crashes still want to ride again, even after they get the new training.

"I enjoy it," said Tucker. "I can actually get on my motorcycle and ride, and it's just like if I were to do bowling or rock climbing or scuba diving. It's something for me. It relaxes me."
My thoughts -

So, it sounds like these guys aren't riding motorcycles while on duty. So, where are they riding them and why? Is it for cheap transportation? Is it for sport? Do they race one another on their off days? Is it really any of our business, anyway? When I saw the title of this article, I thought it would discuss on-duty motorcycle deaths in war zones. Now that would be interesting - this... This is just an odd bit of nonsense. Why not look at the numbers of motorcycle deaths in comparison with something productive, like the number of automobile accidents. It sounds like the Marines and Navy are already doing their best to prevent biking deaths by requiring the men to go through a motorcycle safety course. What more can we ask?
"Sometimes I have to remember that things are brought to me for a reason, either for my own lessons or for the benefit of others." Cynthetiq

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Last edited by genuinegirly; 11-01-2008 at 07:42 AM..
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Old 10-31-2008, 10:15 AM   #2 (permalink)
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To my knowledge, motorcycle riding is explicitly restricted in any of the warzones.

The article is making misleading comparisons. The amount of deaths in Iraq have absolutely nothing to do with the amount of motorcycle deaths stateside.

These reported motorcycle deaths are most likely while the Marine is not on duty. The article does not even say if the motorcycle deaths were because of collisions, breaking the speed limit, or anything. We have no idea if the majority of the accidents were because of getting hit by another car, or because of joy riding and going off the road. Or, if they were because of not wearing a helmet while riding and getting into an accident?

Rather than comparing to deaths in Iraq, the article should compare the number of motorcycle deaths involving military to motorcycle deaths involving civilians.

The military is doing what it can, mandating training, strongly encouraging further training and offering steep discounts to MSF classes to tune one's skills on a motorcycle. They require motorcycle riders to wear helmets and reflective gear on their bases (stateside and where motorcycles are permitted), and not following these rules leads to strict punishments.

Overall, like most anything, motorcycles are dangerous, and I think its the responsibility of the owner of such a vehicle to educate themselves about those possible dangers and how to avoid them as much as possible.
In the Absence of Information People Make Things Up.
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Old 10-31-2008, 01:11 PM   #3 (permalink)
Location: Mississippi
I am a Marine, currently waiting on graduation from school to be shipped to boot camp. I didn't know anything about this, great info. thanks for the heads up.
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Old 11-01-2008, 06:37 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Location: on the back, bitch
I had a conversation with a retired fireman after the funeral for another fireman who was killed on his bike. We had also recently attended the funeral for a retired army lt. colonel, also killed on his bike just weeks after his retirement.
My question to him was this: Is there something in the mentality of those who put their lives on the line that make them think they're invincible when riding?
His short answer: Yes.
Any young civilian man under the age of 30, moreso under the age of 25, goes out into the world thinking he can "conquer all". I truly believe this is even more true for those in life-risking jobs.
The article didn't state where these fatalities occurred. Off base? On leave? Strange lands?
I can see the possibility of them occurring, as one here in NJ did, on leave. The rush of feeling "free", losing oneself when riding, is very strong and probably more strong when out of the risky element.

It's a generalization of a very real problem that's being shown in that article. There's not enough info, no research, no data to fall on. But I do think they're onto something. As a member of PGR who has attended over 25 missions, it is something seen way too often(once is too often) and something always discussed.
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Old 11-01-2008, 09:47 AM   #5 (permalink)
Twenty-five Marines have died in motorcycle crashes since last November -- all but one of them involving sport bikes that can reach speeds of well over 100 mph, according to Marine officials. In that same period, 20 Marines have been killed in action in Iraq.
Seems like an arbitrary comparison. High powered sports bikes and inexperienced thrill seeking riders are likely to result in lots of crashes and deaths.

As a unit, I suspect the Marines are trained in combat at a much higher level than those that ride bikes are trained in motorcycle safety. With that said, it's nice to see safety courses being available and encouraged.
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Old 11-01-2008, 04:25 PM   #6 (permalink)
Location: bedford, tx
25 deaths in a year out of 18,000 marine motorcycle riders is .001%. Why is this an issue? Did the CNN editors decide to attack sports bikes now?
"no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything. You cannot conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him."
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Old 11-01-2008, 06:28 PM   #7 (permalink)
ngdawg's Avatar
Location: on the back, bitch
Originally Posted by dksuddeth View Post
25 deaths in a year out of 18,000 marine motorcycle riders is .001%. Why is this an issue? Did the CNN editors decide to attack sports bikes now?

Way way back, about 1971 or so, I decided to do a little research after hearing about the KIA's in Vietnam and then hearing something about highway fatalities. What I discovered and ended up writing about in our school paper was that in one year, the number of highway fatalities MATCHED the entire KIA list over the course of the conflict.
But, which gets more notice? Not the ones who made it home, nor the number of drivers who DON'T die in their cars. That's not news or at the very least, worth stating.

Talk to any biker and you will likely find out he/she was in a bike accident. You will probably also find out they're vets or have been in some form of civil service. Fact is, car or bike, very very few can state they've never been in an accident.
So, if we take all these bikers, sift thru some facts, we may find that a) they've been in an accident and b) they've been in the service. If we do as the news does, we can then conclude that if a biker has a service record, he/she is more likely to have been in a motorcycle accident. D'OH!

What actually gets me is this mentality behind the article: Yes, it's ok that 20 died in combat, we pay them to. We don't pay them to race around on sport bikes and, BY GOD, that has to stop.
There are 22,000 Marines in Iraq. No one mentions the 21,980 that are alive. 18,000 Marines own bikes; no one mentions the 17,975 that ride safely or survived a wreck. There are approximately 180,000 Marines total, which means about 10% ride.
There are approx.305,000,000 people in the US. 4 million of them own a bike, which means a little over 10% of the US population rides. Approximately 5100 in 2007 died in a motorcycle accident. That's about .01% or 10x the amount of marines by population percentages. BY GOD, that has to stop. But it ain't news.
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Old 11-01-2008, 06:35 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Willravel's Avatar
Motorcycles aren't perfectly safe. Nothing is. So long as these Marines are driving responsibly (and I'm sure most are), I can't imagine anything can be done about the death rate.

People in cars, be safe around bikes. Keep an eye out and don't change lanes suddenly around bikes.
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