Marine bikers might get more schooling
Published Sun, Jun 22, 2008 12:00 AM

Marines and sailors who ride high-performance racing motorcycles, also known as sport bikes, may be required to take a one-day safety course, according to the rule now awaiting

approval from the Navy.

If approved, all personnel at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, including civilians, will need to complete the course to maintain a base-access sticker for their bike. The rule is expected to be finalized in early July. Marines are already required to complete a basic rider course to obtain a base-access sticker, but retired Gunnery Sgt. Adam Gray, tactical safety

specialist MCAS Beaufort and Parris Island, said he doesn't think Beaufort's Marines will mind the extra instruction.

"For most of the guys, any day out on their bike and away from work is a good day," he said.

The rule is aimed at curbing a growing trend of Marines and sailors getting injured or killed on their motorcycles. Thirty of the 32 sailors and Marines killed in motorcycle accidents this fiscal year were riding sports bikes, according to the Naval Safety Center.

Between Parris Island and the air station, about 100 people have already signed up for a special course aimed at sport bike safety, Gray said.

The class will consist of three hours of classroom time and five hours riding on an outdoor driving course.

"We're trying to open their eyes and show them that, yes, you have a fast bike but do you really have to drive it that fast?" he said. The classes are scheduled to begin in August.

The bikes have become increasingly attractive for younger Marines who like the look, feel and speed of the lighter sport bikes, Gray said.

"These guys are 18, 19, 20 years old, they're right out of boot camp and they think they're invincible," he said. "We want to show them that they are vulnerable."

The issue of motorcycle safety is especially relevant for Marines stationed in South Carolina, which has ranked among the top three states in the nation for motorcycle crashes, injuries and fatalities over the last five years, according to the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

With the rising cost of gasoline, Gray said he's noticed Beaufort-based Marines taking an increasing interest in motorcycles. The sports bikes can average 30 to 50 miles per gallon, Gray said.

"When we have people sign up for the course, we ask them why they bought the bike and a lot of people say $4 a gallon gas," he said.