Vehicle Accidents Lead Off-Duty Military Fatalities
According to the Department of Defense, the summer, whose beginning is marked by Memorial Day and “end” by Labor Day, was deadly for off-duty military personnel. The deaths of four servicemembers over Labor Day weekend brought the number of dead to 95 for 2009. Twenty fewer servicemembers died this summer compared to the summer of 2008, but the leading causes were still automobile, motorcycle, and truck accidents.
Reported Branch Fatalities
- The Army reported that 40 off-duty personnel were killed this summer. This is a drop from last summer when 61 were killed.
- The Navy reported 20 fatalities, a drop from last summer’s 32. The Marine Corps reported 13 deaths, a drop from 20.
- The Air Force was the only branch of the military to report an increase in summer off-duty fatalities. They reported 22 summer fatalities, an increase from last year’s 17.
One of the reasons there may have been a drop in fatalities is that the Military Sportbike Rider Course was implemented for servicemembers who own and ride sportsbikes. After a spike in the number of personnel killed in motorcycle accidents, the military now requires this class, plus a refresher course every three years. The course emphasizes safety and riding skills.
While motorcycle safety isn’t the only area the military is focusing on, it may be the most visible because a high percentage of those killed and seriously injured were on sportsbikes. Spokespeople at the Army Combat Readiness and Safety Center and the Naval Safety Center attribute the drop in fatalities to a new awareness that involves officers down to enlisted personnel, as well as their families and friends.