May is recognized as motorcycle safety awareness month. Throughout the month, Coast Guard All Hands will share important information for Coast Guard men and women who ride, and for supervisors of those who ride. If you have questions or comments about anything, please comment below and we will get back to you with the appropriate answer. Thanks for reading and remember to Ride Safe!
Written by Dale A. Wisnieski
Serving in the military is both challenging and rewarding. From the Commandant to the newest recruit, each member is challenged to become proficient at their craft and is handed a level of responsibility.
And with that responsibility comes accountability.
Life is a challenge and we have many responsibilities in which we are held accountable. Failing to conduct proper maintenance on an aircraft or boat may lead to a costly mishap. You could be held responsible if the investigation determines you failed to perform your duties. Failing to pay your creditors may result in your paycheck being garnished or your property being repossessed. The decisions we make lead to our successes and failures.
We often relate accountability to our careers and family decisions. Rarely do we think about being held accountable for our participation in off-duty recreational activities.
When it comes to motorcycling, Coast Guard riders believe they are treated differently, and in some ways they are. Motorcycling is a risky activity that continues to be the number one killer of Coast Guard members. Policies are created to support not deter riding. Policies should be viewed as a mechanism to be a safer rider. Polices that include training, personal protective equipment use and mentoring are all positive aspects of riding. Riders must abide by the policy and be held accountable if they do not.
I have had riders tell me, “It’s my life and I am only hurting myself.”
What we fail to realize is that our decisions do affect others. Your colleagues count on your knowledge and skills, and your family counts on your support. Bad decisions such as failing to wear a helmet or drinking alcohol while riding can have fatal consequences. Think about those who would be affected in your absence. Making good decisions increases your chances of making it home to the ones that care.
First and for most, riders must start by holding themselves accountable. Not just to policy, but to your family, and your unit and most importantly yourself.
Take a look in the mirror and ask, “What are the consequences for disregarding policy? What will happen to my family if I do not come home? What type of example am I setting to other riders?”
Self induced reality checks are often the first step to changing bad behaviors and habits.
While accountability starts with the individual, Coast Guard members cannot forget their responsibilities as leaders. Serving in the military is 24-hour responsibility. It’s never easy to step in and stop a member that you observe disregarding policy, or breaking laws such as racing or performing stunts on a public highway. With that said, it’s never easy to attend the funeral of a friend or member that you could have helped. While there is a rank structure, every member can intervene when necessary. Intervention may just save a life.
Accountability not only supports a solid safety program, it begins the process of changing the behaviors that lead motorcycle related mishaps.
If you would like to get involved or need additional information on improving your unit’s motorcycle safety program, please contact Dale A. Wisnieski via email or at 202-475-5206.