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Rise in Motorcylce Deaths

New Bern, NC –

North Carolina was one of only 14 states to show an increase in traffic fatalities. As a state, the number of total traffic deaths rose 7.8 percent resulting in a total of 1,675 deaths. AAA Carolinas cites speeding as a factor in one-third of the state's fatal crashes. The report also suggested it could be that State Highway Patrol personnel isn't growing in relation to the state's increasing population. In the past five years, North Carolina's population has grown by 7.6 percent. Earlier this month the organization released a report citing motorcycles and drunk driving for the rise in the fatality rate. Carol Gifford, AAA Carolinas public relations manager blames lack of experience on motorcycle fatalities.

Right now in North Carolina, you can drive a motorcycle on public streets without ever having to take a road test. Motorcycles are not the same as driving a car and you need to be trained in how to properly operate a motorcycle to be a safer driver.

In 2007, motorcycle rider fatalities accounted for 5,154 deaths, nationally, with 23 fatalities in the last fiscal year involving service members. To combat the issue, local Marine Corps Bases have revised their motorcycle operator's requirements to line up with the Marine Corps' Drive Safe Program. Stan Dutko, the installations and regional safety manager for Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Installations East, says the Drive Safe Program is an effort to decrease the number of motorcycle fatalities involving Marines.

So what we've been doing here over the past couple of years and very strong this year, is taking care of our Marines. We treat Marines like we do our own family members. Every Marine is considered to be a family member. And when we have a Marine suffer a loss in a motor vehicle or motorcycle accident, where we have a loss of life, its like loosing one of our family members.

Part of the Drive Safe Program is training individuals to ride a motorcycle safely by training them on a basic rider course and an experienced rider course.

It's our intent to grab a new marine when he comes in who hasn't rode a motorcycle before, or who has a limited riding experience, and get him into the motorcycle safety foundations basic rider course. That teaches them the initial things they need to know for operating a motorcycle. You know, clutch manipulation, braking, steering, how to go into a curve, those types of things. Once they've been riding for a little while, we try to bring them back in about a year or so when they're riding, and get them through a experienced rider course. That gives them a little bit higher speed curve negotiation, a little bit higher speed braking, those type of skill sets

A new aspect of the Drive Safe Program includes offering a course curriculum specifically targeting the military sport bike community. Sport bikes are more difficult to ride because they require more controlled handling, faster curve negotiation, and different braking techniques. State law requires anyone riding a motorcycle to wear a helmet. However, Marines must comply with state laws and the guidelines enforced by the Drive Safe Program.

A helmet, gloves, long sleeved shirt or upper garment during the day time, at night he needs to have a reflective vest on. He needs to have long pants, and hard soled shoes. We even go as far as saying over the ankle boots or shoes are highly encouraged for them to do so. In the civilian community, you see guys riding motorcycles with tennis shoes, shorts, and a tank top or no shirt, and they have a helmet on, they're in compliance with the state law, but our Marines don't ride like that because we value their welfare and safety.

Motorcycles have increased in popularity over recent years. Most people are purchasing them as a way of minimizing their gas consumption. But some simply enjoy bikes for recreational purposes. Whatever the reason, the Drive Safe Program and State laws are in existence to make sure motorcycle riders stay safe.

Our program is set up that so all our people when they go out on the road are set up for success in that we've given them everything we can so they can make it back to the base the next morning and to their house that evening.