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Safety promotion offers free reflective vests to base motorcyclists

Staff Sgt. Mike Bailey, left, and Tech. Sgt. Fabian Cosper ride motorcycles on base while wearing newly issued reflective vests, Feb. 5. The 162nd Fighter Wing Safety Office will hand out 150 vests to assigned Airmen who ride. They were purchased under Air Force Instruction 91-202, the Air Force Mishap Prevention Program, which states unit funds may be used to prevent mishaps. (Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

Staff Sgt. Mike Bailey, left, and Tech. Sgt. Fabian Cosper ride motorcycles on base while wearing newly issued reflective vests, Feb. 5. The 162nd Fighter Wing Safety Office will hand out 150 vests to assigned Airmen who ride. They were purchased under Air Force Instruction 91-202, the Air Force Mishap Prevention Program, which states unit funds may be used to prevent mishaps. (Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

Staff Sgt. Mike Bailey, left, and Col. Greg Stroud, 162nd Fighter Wing commander, try on new reflective vests that are being issued to motorcycle riders on base free of charge, Feb. 5. Colonel Stroud approved the purchase of 150 vests under Air Force Instruction 91-202, the Air Force Mishap Prevention Program, which states unit funds may be used to prevent mishaps. (Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

Staff Sgt. Mike Bailey, left, and Col. Greg Stroud, 162nd Fighter Wing commander, try on new reflective vests that are being issued to motorcycle riders on base free of charge, Feb. 5. Colonel Stroud approved the purchase of 150 vests under Air Force Instruction 91-202, the Air Force Mishap Prevention Program, which states unit funds may be used to prevent mishaps. (Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- As part of a new traffic safety promotion the 162nd Fighter Wing at Tucson International Airport is issuing high-visibility reflective vests to all assigned Air Guardsmen who ride motorcycles - free of charge.

Col. Greg Stroud, the wing commander, ceremoniously issued the first of 150 vests currently in stock at the wing safety office to motorcycle rider Staff Sgt. Mike Bailey, Feb. 5.

"I think it's a great promotion to give out a vest that meets on-base requirements," said Sergeant Bailey, a 162nd Fighter Wing Motorcycle Mentorship program manager. "Not only that... it looks great. It's a good quality, brand name vest that does nothing but add to my visibility so I don't get run over."

Traffic safety and preventable mishaps has been a long-standing issue of concern at all levels of Air Force leadership.

In an Oct. 8, 2009, memorandum to all Air Force personnel Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz delivered the unfortunate news that 20 Airmen service wide lost their lives in motorcycle accidents during the previous fiscal year. The Air Force's goal for 2010 is zero Airmen lost in preventable motorcycle mishaps.

According to Air Force Instruction 91-207, the Air Force Traffic Safety Program, motorcycle riders are required to wear a brightly colored outer upper garment during the day and a reflective upper garment during the night. Wing policy states that the prescribed upper garment must be a brightly colored vest that contains at least 24 inches of reflective material.

"Anything we can do for our motorcycle riders to increase their margin of safety is well worth it," said Colonel Stroud. "And I think people will like these particular vests."

The vests retail at $59.95 each, but were purchased by the wing for $14.95. The wing's Motorcycle Mentorship Club, a group of experienced riders who mentor new riders on base, informed the safety office that a motorcycle company had the vests on sale for $19.95. The safety office called the company and worked out a deal to buy them at a greater discount.

"I'm quite pleased with their quality for the price that we were able to acquire them," said Colonel Stroud. "We'll hand these out and when the promotion is done we'll look at the possibility of similar promotions in the future."

To get a free vest, Airmen must add their names to their unit's motorcycle riders' roster through their supervisors; take an approved motorcycle safety foundation course; and receive a briefing on AFI 91-207. Then they may contact the safety office at 295-6307 to get a form to be signed by the rider and their supervisor.

"We bought 150 because that's how many riders we have registered on base. We know that there are others who only ride off base and therefore are not on their unit's motorcycle roster, so our hope is that this promotion will encourage more riders to register with us so they can get a free vest," said Sergeant Karas.

Motorcycle riders are the least protected vehicle operators on the road, said Karas. "Giving them a vest may help save lives, and it's a high-dollar vest so we hope people will wear them off base because they are so good looking."