Department of Defense Combats Increase in Military Motorcycle Deaths

The number of motorcycle crashes involving military service members is quickly on the rise, and the Department of Defense is trying to combat the disturbing trend.

It projects a 20 percent increase in deadly wrecks this year over last -- most of those likely to happen during the month of May and on Saturdays.

But Fairfax County police are working to help change those statistics.

Friday morning the department's motor squad went to Ft. Belvoir.

"The more you understand your motorcycle, the safer you'll be," Officer Chad Burrow told the group of 40 or so service members in attendance.

These officers ride year round.

"If it's raining, it's hot, it's cold, we do ride," Burrow said.

They shared their seasoned skills with active and retired military.

"You can smell everything, you can see everything, you can feel everything, you just can't do that in a car. But you can do that in a motorcycle," said program coordinator Hank Harriel. "It reminds them of some of the simplest things that we need to do as riders to make sure that when we're out there on the road we remember those things."

Riding is big in the military. About 6 percent of the Air Force rides. In the Navy and Marine Corps, 10 percent ride. And 16 percent of the soldiers in the Army are on motorcycles.

After this year's rough winter, many riders are rusty, and they're encountering trouble spots on the roads, namely potholes.

"The potholes that are out here that are 8 inches to a foot deep, I know you've all hit them, because I know I have," Burrow said.

The Department of Defense can't say for sure what's behind the spike in motorcycle deaths, but it's trying to be proactive by using similar training programs on military installations nationwide.

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