Motorcycles: reckless, costly thrill

20 Feb 2008 | Lance Cpl. Brian Lewis

Marines, known for thrill seeking, are becoming more attracted to motorcycles, evidenced by the increase of ownership of sport and cruising bikes on military installations.

 These machines, beautiful and powerful, have become a source of reckless behavior among Marines and sailors and have attracted the attention of II Marine Expeditionary Force leadership.

 “Of the 40 motorcycle mishaps we studied, only three were alcohol related,” said Col. Jeffrey A. Gardner, the II MEF Director of Safety. “However, we consistently see reckless behavior as one of the main causal factors.”

 A recent incident involving a young lance corporal on leave is characteristic of a growing trend among some of our younger motorcyclists. The Marine was heading to his girlfriend’s house on his motorcycle. He was aware he had revoked plates on his bike and he knew he had not completed the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basis Rider Course as required by Marine Corps and II MEF orders. His command also knew this, and in an attempt to ensure the safety and well being of this Marine both his Company Commander and his Battalion Commander had given the Marine a direct order not to ride his motorcycle until he had received the proper training and the revoked license plate issue was resolved. The Marine chose to ignore these orders and continued to use his motorcycle. On the way to his girlfriend’s house he was clocked doing 86 mph in a 55 mph zone by law enforcement, who then attempted to pull him over for speeding.

 The Marine made the decision not to slow down and pull over.

 In fact, he decided to increase his speed in a failed attempt to elude the police officer and subsequently led law enforcement officials on a high-speed chase through two counties, endangering not only himself, but the police officers in pursuit and the innocent civilians he passed during this chase.

 “This current trend within II MEF, of Marines trying to elude police and leading them on high speed chases often reaching 150 mph or more, usually results in one of two things, death or capture,” said Gardner. “The Marine was lucky, he got caught, he lived. But, he must now face the consequences for the choices he made. He chose to violate the direct orders given to him not to ride his motorcycle; he chose to ride his motorcycle without the required training, he chose to violate state laws by riding a motorcycle with revoked plates and speeding, and he chose to try and elude police at a extremely dangerous speed once he was caught speeding.”

 What were the consequences for making those choices? On the civilian side of the legal system, the Marine is waiting adjudication of one felony charge for speeding and eluding a police officer and eight other misdemeanor charges. On the military side of the legal system, the adjudication was much quicker, in less than two weeks he received nonjudical punishment and was awarded the maximum allowable punishment.

 "Young Marines need stop and think about not just the short term consequences but also the long term consequences that results from their spur-of-the-moment decision" said Gardner " I know if each Marine war gamed the above events they would realize the instant gratification of going 150 mph is not worth living the rest of your life as a convicted felon.”

 “There are a variety of reasons Marines and sailors flee from law enforcement,” said Gunnery Sgt. Frank Porczi, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Motorcycle Club staff noncommissioned officer. “They become fearful and determined not to be caught, especially as Marines and sailors. On top of that, the adrenaline kicks in.”

 Another cause of the accidents is not understanding the motorcycle’s abilities.

 “Marines are buying bikes and not learning the full capabilities of it,” said Porczi. “Like many situations, people can get hurt if they don’t have the knowledge.”

 II MEF’s Motorcycle Club, as with other command motorcycle clubs, was implemented to help inexperienced Marines and sailors avoid bad situations though mentorship.

 “We want new riders to be able to learn and be mentored by seasoned riders,” Porczi said. “We teach them to ride in traffic and groups, as well as other techniques.”

 Throughout the past few years, the club has also included new incentives to attract more riders to join.

 “We now have the Keith Code Course, which is a motorcycle training course of advanced techniques,” Porczi said. “We also have motorcycle rides to many sites and events that everyone can enjoy. It allows the riders to mingle as a group and form a brotherhood.”

 For more information on the Motorcycle Club, contact Gunnery Sgt. Porzci at (910) 451-8853.