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Riders 'revved up' for motorcycle safety day

Terry A. Yonkers, assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics, and Col. Ken Rizer, commander of the 11th Wing at Joint Base Andrews, Md., address motorcyclists at the JBA Motorcycle Safety Day July 15, 2011.  As a part of the Air Force's Year of Motorcycle Safety, the event was held for riders on JBA to increase their awareness of the need to ride safely.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Torey Griffith)

Terry A. Yonkers, assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics, and Col. Ken Rizer, commander of the 11th Wing at Joint Base Andrews, Md., address motorcyclists at the JBA Motorcycle Safety Day July 15, 2011. As a part of the Air Force's Year of Motorcycle Safety, the event was held for riders on JBA to increase their awareness of the need to ride safely. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Torey Griffith)

Riders participating in Motorcycle Safety Day at Joint Base Andrews, Md., depart on a group ride July 15, 2011.  As a part of the Air Force's Year of Motorcycle Safety, the event was held for riders on JBA to increase their awareness of the need to ride safely.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Torey Griffith)

Riders participating in Motorcycle Safety Day at Joint Base Andrews, Md., depart on a group ride July 15, 2011. As a part of the Air Force's Year of Motorcycle Safety, the event was held for riders on JBA to increase their awareness of the need to ride safely. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Torey Griffith)

Officers from the Prince George's County Sherriff’s Department lead a group of motorcyclists from Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 15, 2011, on a ride off base to highlight Motorcycle Safety Day.  As a part of the Air Force's Year of Motorcycle Safety, the event was held for riders on JBA to increase their awareness of the need to ride safely.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Torey Griffith)

Officers from the Prince George's County Sherriff’s Department lead a group of motorcyclists from Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 15, 2011, on a ride off base to highlight Motorcycle Safety Day. As a part of the Air Force's Year of Motorcycle Safety, the event was held for riders on JBA to increase their awareness of the need to ride safely. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Torey Griffith)

A member of the Patriot Guard departs on the group ride at the Joint Base Andrews Motorcycle Safety Day here July 15.  The event was part of and Air Force-wide effort to educate riders and minimize accidents. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Torey Griffith)

A member of the Patriot Guard departs on the group ride at the Joint Base Andrews Motorcycle Safety Day here July 15. The event was part of and Air Force-wide effort to educate riders and minimize accidents. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Torey Griffith)

Lt. Col. Joseph Galletti, 1st Helicopter Squadron assistant director of operations, displays his 2009 Honda DN-01 at the Joint Base Andrews Motorcycle Safety Day July 15.  The event was part of and Air Force-wide effort to inform riders and prevent accidents. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Torey Griffith)

Lt. Col. Joseph Galletti, 1st Helicopter Squadron assistant director of operations, displays his 2009 Honda DN-01 at the Joint Base Andrews Motorcycle Safety Day July 15. The event was part of and Air Force-wide effort to inform riders and prevent accidents. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Torey Griffith)

A group of Patriot Guard motorcycles await their riders at the Joint Base Andrews Motorcycle Safety Day on July 15.  Servicemembers from all branches, civilian DoD employees and civilians were invited to the event which focused on promoting safe riding during the peak season.

A group of Patriot Guard motorcycles await their riders at the Joint Base Andrews Motorcycle Safety Day on July 15. Servicemembers from all branches, civilian DoD employees and civilians were invited to the event which focused on promoting safe riding during the peak season.

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- Service members, along with Department of Defense employees, retirees and civilians gathered for the Joint Base Andrews Motorcycle Safety Day here July 15.

The event, which included a group ride through Maryland's Prince George's County, was designed to inform riders of all skill and experience levels on how to combine their passion for two-wheeled travel with good practices that will keep them riding safely.

"What we are really about here today is to bring emphasis, sensitivity and focus to something that we can prevent," said Terry Yonkers, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics, and an avid motorcycle rider. "Motorcycle safety is an important tool we can all use to prevent motorcycle-related deaths and other serious injuries."

Air Force officials have named 2011 "the year of motorcycle safety," and members here are planning to make the motorcycle safety day a yearly event.

"This is hopefully the start of many safety days to come," said Christopher Parks, the Joint Base Andrews assistant fire chief. "The Joint Base Andrews Motorcycle Safety Day is a benchmark for the riding community as we improve the safety of our military's only indispensable assets: our service members."

A steady rise in motorcycle ownership among service members has brought with it an upward trend of motorcycle-related deaths and injuries, officials said. Bases throughout the Air Force have begun similar programs to combat the injuries and loss of life.

"This is a contact sport and a defensive sport," Yonkers said as he addressed the riders at the opening ceremonies. "On any given year, there are 12 to 17 Airmen who die in motorcycle accidents. We want you to enjoy the ride, but at the same time, we want to ensure that you're safe."

The safety day is more than a reminder to strap on a helmet. Event officials also taught riders how to perform inspections on their bikes and gave pointers on how to sharpen their riding skills.

Highlights included demonstrations of precision ridership by members of the motorcycle team from the Sheriff's Department of Fairfax County, Va.; a slow-ride contest, in which contestants displayed their mastery of balance and bike control; and a "beer goggles" contest, where participants rode tricycles while wearing vision-blurring goggles to simulate drunk riding.

"You can bet that we are very, very serious and passionate about motorcycle safety," Yonkers said. "This year and every year to follow is going to be a motorcycle safety year for the United States Air Force."