invisible hit counter
Kings Bay hosts motorcycle safety class
ST. MARYS -- The Navy knew it had a problem when 65 sailors and marines died in motorcycle accidents in 2008.

A study to determine what could be done to reduce the number of deaths revealed a surprise about motorcycle use among active-duty sailors and marines.

"We found there were more riders than we were aware of," said Russ Protfiero, traffic safety manager for Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay.

The Navy decided to conduct motorcycle safety courses the following year at bases across the nation.

Motorcycle deaths dropped by two-thirds after 2009, when the courses began to be offered, and the numbers have remained stable ever since.

Monday, a motorcycle safety course was conducted at Kings Bay to help riders hone their skills and learn ways to avoid dangerous situations on the road. While the course wasn't mandatory, many showed up to learn ways to better protect themselves while driving their motorcycles.

Tim Wixson, a traffic safety instructor on base, said the course helps riders understand their capabilities and what they can do to protect themselves on the road.

The Navy requires anyone who owns a motorcycle to wear an approved helmet, long-sleeve shirts or jackets, long pants, gloves and footwear that goes above the ankle.

The course is just another way for participants to learn to drive defensively.

"It's not what they're wearing. It's the mind set," Wixson said. "This is just practice."

Participants drove their motorcycles through a maze of cones set up in a parking lot to test their skills. Riders sometimes had to repeat the challenging series of sharp turns, weaving deftly between the cones without stopping or putting their feet on the ground to keep the motorcycle upright.

Capt. Harvey Guffey, commanding officer at Kings Bay, was one of the participants.

"It's a great course," he said. "It increases your confidence with what you face on the highway. These maneuvers help."

Cmdr. Ed Callahan, executive officer on base, said the course was a "true test of your abilities."

"I was pleased with the degree of difficulty," he said. "It was definitely a challenging course. It shows your limitations."

Wixon tells participants to slow down as they approach intersections, because many motorists have difficulty gauging how fast a motorcycle is traveling, and to follow no closer than four seconds of elapsed time behind other vehicles.

"Four seconds gives you time to respond instead of react," he said.

Wixson said the intent is to help riders become more aware of their environment when they are on the road and avoid situations that could result in an accident.

"Everybody's in a hurry to get to the same place," he said. "This gives them a better awareness of risk."

* Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about Camden County and other local topics. Contact him at, on Facebook or at 464-7655.

View Full Site