Twenty U.S. Marines have died in motorcycle accidents since Oct. 1 making this year the deadliest on record in spite of the Corps’ attempts to reduce motorcycle accident fatalities among Marines. According to an article in the Marine Corps Times, the recent death of Gunnery Sgt. Michael Hoffman in New York exceeded the previous total of 19 motorcycle accident fatalities the Corps recorded in 2007 and marks the fifth two-wheeler accident death just this month.
Hoffman died after the 2007 Honda motorcycle he was driving hit a curb, throwing him and his passenger, a 23-year-old woman, off the motorcycle. Neither he or his passenger were not wearing helmets. Marine Corps officials have been emphasizing the importance of safety gear and training. The Corps’ policy requires Marines to wear helmets and other protective gear while riding. This requirement is part of a new, stiffer private motor vehicle and motorcycle safety regulations announced earlier this year. But these new rules have apparently done little to stop the rash of motorcycle accident deaths and injuries in the Marine Corps.
The Marine Corps is now planning to add more courses and more instructors for these training programs that include more basic rider safety courses. Two-wheelers – be it powerful motorcycles, scooters or sport bikes – need to be handled with a great deal of caution. It is indeed a tragedy that our young Marines have perished in these unnecessary motorcycle accidents. Some of them may have been prevented had they been wearing the appropriate safety gear or had been trained to ride safely and defensively.
Increase in motorcycle accidents and fatalities among the members of the Marine Corps is only a reflection of a larger trend, which can be directly correlated to lack of helmet use. According to a recent article in USA Today, riding without helmets became more common since 1995, around the time the federal government decided to stop withholding highway money from states without helmet laws.
As more states relaxed helmet laws, the percentage of riders who wore helmets dropped dramatically and fatality rates increased. In 1996, 5.6 motorcyclists were killed for every 10,000 registered motorcycles, according to Department of Transportation (DoT) statistics. By 2006 that number increased to 7.3. This is not just a problem for the Marine Corps. If more stringent helmet laws are not brought back, there is no question that motorcycle accident fatalities will continue to rise.
Another factor in the rising number of motorcycle accidents and injuries is the rising cost of gasoline. As gasoline prices rise will we see more people turning to motorcycles and other two wheeled motorized transportation to beat the rising cost of gasoline.