By Greg Jones
USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs Office
Motorcycle Personal Protective Equipment includes gear that is meant to protect motorcycle riders and reduce the risk and the severity of injuries in case of an accident. While some of the gear is intended to protect the rider in an accident, much of it is also intended to help prevent the accident in the first place.
Not only is wearing the right PPE good common sense, it also is required by regulation. U.S. Army in Europe Regulation 190-1 is the governing regulation for all U.S. military forces in Europe on matters of vehicle licensing and traffic law. This regulation, in conjunction with the USAREUR commander’s policy letter dated June 27, 2013 comprise the policy for the operation of motorcycles by all USAREUR license holders and applies to active duty service members of all four services, Department of Defense civilian employees, and family members. Both the policy letter and the regulation are available online at aepubs.army.mil.
The following PPE is required:
Head: A helmet properly fastened under the chin. Helmets must meet the standards set by the American National Standards Institute, the Snell Memorial Foundation Standards, the Institut für Zweiradsicherheit e.V. (Institute for Two-Wheel Safety), or the Economic Commission of Europe for bicycle helmets.
Eyes: Eye protection must meet the Vehicle Equipment Safety Commission Regulation standards or the European equivalent. Eye protection must be impact- or shatter-resistant goggles or a full-face shield properly attached to the helmet. A windshield or eyeglasses alone are not proper eye protection.
Hands: Full-fingered gloves.
Upper Body: There are two requirements for the upper body. A high visibility bright fluorescent colored garment with reflective materials must be worn to meet visibility requirements. Long sleeves must be worn for protection. Riders may wear a jacket or other garment that is long-sleeved and made of bright fluorescent colors and reflective material, or may instead wear a bright fluorescent reflective vest over a long sleeve shirt or jacket. The European highway safety vest pictured below meets this requirement. For better protection, the MSF recommends sturdy jackets made of leather or reinforced materials. Operators in military uniform may wear bright fluorescent colored approved motorcycle riding jackets with their uniform. The brightly colored mesh vest commonly used for physical training does not meet this requirement, nor does the PT jacket.
Legs: Full-length trousers.
Feet: Over-the-ankle footwear should be made of sturdy leather and have a good oil-resistant sole to reduce slipping hazards. Service boots meet this requirement.
While these policies have been in effect for some time, a renewed emphasis on motorcycle safety has prompted much more stringent enforcement, including a policy of gate security personnel recording infractions and reporting them to the Military Police.
The penalty for failure to wear the proper PPE is the same violation as not wearing a seatbelt in an automobile, and carries a mandatory USAREUR license suspension of 7 days. The violator’s license will also be assessed three points.
The standards outlined in AER 190-1 are actually based primarily on a DOD instruction so they should not be very different than the guidelines in place with the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. Also, all of these organizations have based most of their motorcycle safety policy and education on practices and standards set forth by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.
The PPE listed above protects the rider in two ways. It makes the rider less likely to be in an accident, and it helps reduce the severity of injuries in the case of an accident.
Bright, fluorescent colored clothing makes the rider more visible, and being seen by motorists is the first step to a motorcyclist avoiding a collision. Also, gloves, eye protection, and sturdy boots can protect the rider from the elements, reducing distraction, fatigue, and the effects of inclement weather. A more focused rider is a safer rider, according to the MSF.
If an accident does occur, a proper helmet can often mean the difference between walking away and being carried away on a stretcher or worse. The MSF, and the USAREUR policy highly encourages sturdy clothing made of leather, or reinforced materials, or purpose-made motorcycle clothing. It protects the skin from abrasions, and can absorb impact, making broken bones and other internal injuries less likely, or less severe, according to the MSF.
Whether it keeps riders from being in an accident, or reduces their injuries, PPE is not only enforceable by military law; it also might just save the rider’s life.