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Hundreds ride in for Eglin Motorcycle Safety Day

Master Sgt. Chad Wilkey, 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron, adjusts his 'award-winning' custom chopper before the group ride at the Team Eglin Motorcycle Safety Day March 13 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The second annual event brought out approximately 280 riders to participate in safety discussions, riding skills competition and group ride. (Air Force illustration/Samuel King Jr.)

Master Sgt. Chad Wilkey, 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron, adjusts his 'award-winning' custom chopper before the group ride at the Team Eglin Motorcycle Safety Day March 13 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The second annual event brought out approximately 280 riders to participate in safety discussions, riding skills competition and group ride. (Air Force illustration/Samuel King Jr.)

Staff Sgt. Cary Sheppard, 96th Medical Operations Squadron, gets ready to ride with two other bikers at the Team Eglin Motorcycle Safety Day March 13 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The second annual event brought out approximately 280 riders to participate in safety discussions, riding skills competition and group ride. (Air Force Photo/Samuel King Jr.)

Staff Sgt. Cary Sheppard, 96th Medical Operations Squadron, gets ready to ride with two other bikers at the Team Eglin Motorcycle Safety Day March 13 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The second annual event brought out approximately 280 riders to participate in safety discussions, riding skills competition and group ride. (Air Force Photo/Samuel King Jr.)

Lee Labruyere, 68th Electronic Warfare Squadron, waits his turn during the riding skills competition at the Team Eglin Motorcycle Safety Day March 13 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The second annual event brought out approximately 280 riders to participate in safety discussions, riding skills competition and group ride. (Air Force Photo/Samuel King Jr.

Lee Labruyere, 68th Electronic Warfare Squadron, waits his turn during the riding skills competition at the Team Eglin Motorcycle Safety Day March 13 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The second annual event brought out approximately 280 riders to participate in safety discussions, riding skills competition and group ride. (Air Force Photo/Samuel King Jr.

Brandon Ricketts, 46th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, revs up his bike as we waits for the rest of his group during the Team Eglin Motorcycle Safety Day March 13 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The second annual event brought out approximately 280 riders to participate in safety discussions, riding skills competition and group ride. (Air Force Photo/Samuel King Jr.)

Brandon Ricketts, 46th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, revs up his bike as we waits for the rest of his group during the Team Eglin Motorcycle Safety Day March 13 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The second annual event brought out approximately 280 riders to participate in safety discussions, riding skills competition and group ride. (Air Force Photo/Samuel King Jr.)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Team Eglin's 2nd Annual Motorcycle Safety Day received its biggest turn out yet with more than 280 riders attending March 13 to take part in safety briefings, ask questions and socialize with other bikers.

"Motorcycle safety is everyone's concern, not just the riders," said Col. Rick LoCastro, 96th Air Base Wing vice commander. "This safety day serves not only as a refresher for our riders, but also as a reminder to anyone driving by to be more aware and cautious around bikes, both on and off base. This is a great program our safety units put together."

This year's event, which also included a riding skills course and a group ride, acted as a forum for all of Eglin's bikers to be better informed about the dangers they face ... and danger can be just around the corner.

The statistics shown at the briefings made it very clear. The standing-room only crowd at the Eglin Conference Center heard that motorcycle deaths lead the Air Force casualty list for 2008 with 16. Although Eglin did not have any active-duty deaths, the base had seven motorcycle accidents/injuries last year.

Lt. Roger Main from 96th Security Forces Squadron talked out the Air Force rules and regulations as well as the procedures for riding on Eglin. Then Deputy Bill Harwood from the Okaloosa Sheriff's Department talked about Florida laws and provided even more sobering statistics.

He stated there were 517 motorcycle fatalities in Florida in 2007 and 8,186 injuries. Okaloosa County had two deaths in 2007 and three in 2008.

"Unfortunately with regard to motorcycles, trends indicate an increase in recklessness and noncompliance with traffic laws among younger riders, especially sport-bike riders, said Robert Fusco, Air Armament Center safety office. "Today's event provides those of us within the safety profession an opportunity to provide Team Eglin riders with a quality motorcycle safety presentation. Our hope and genuine concern is that the message is well received. "

Next was the riding course competition, where bikers performed slalom maneuvers through cones, completed a sudden stop and swerve objective and rode a slow race. Once the competition was over and awards were given out the riders rode together in groups to Crestview, Fla., for lunch.

"This has been, by far, our best turnout," said Joe Bailey, head of 53d Wing ground safety. "Knowledge is protection and that's our goal - to give the riders a first-hand 'wheels on road' experience - and I think we accomplished that."