II MEF initiates plans to help save lives; leadership impacts Marines’ safety

11 Oct 2006 | Cpl. Rose A. Muth

With the holiday season upon us, many Marines watch the minute hand on the office clock, counting down to the start of their vacation.  Although many Marines can recite a safety brief off the top of their heads, II Marine Expeditionary Force mishap statistics prove otherwise.

“Marines always pride themselves on being the best at everything. When it comes down to statistics, we are the best at crashing motor vehicles and motorcycles across the board for all five services,” said Lt. Col. Michael S. Miller, deputy safety officer, II Marine Expeditionary Force. “If we can prevent people from getting hurt, then we might be able to save a life. Our resources are an asset, and the Marine Corps resources happen to be human. We can’t replace Marines who are severely injured or even killed.”

During fiscal year 2006, Camp Lejeune suffered 13 fatalities, eight from private motor vehicles, and four from motorcycle mishaps. Class B mishaps are classified as serious injury or partial disability and II MEF Marines were involved in 18 PMV accidents and 16 motorcycle accidents according to II MEF mishap statistics. 

“There are many different factors involved with vehicle and motorcycle accidents. The five biggest contributors are speed, fatigue, distractions, substance abuse and seatbelts,” Miller said. “It comes down to personal responsibility and discipline. Instead of speeding up to pass a slow car in front of you, think about the consequences if something should go wrong. You not only put yourself in danger, you put other drivers and their passengers in danger as well.”

To set up Marines for driving success, the base sets guidelines for operating a motor vehicle or motorcycle aboard the installation through Marine Corps Base Order P5560.2M.

“A driver must have a valid driver’s license, attend a driver’s improvement course if they are under the age of 26 and have car or motorcycle insurance,” Miller said. “If a Marine owns or operates a motorcycle, they must have a motorcycle license and attend the motorcycle safety course. Regardless of the state requirements, Marines are required to wear the mandatory safety gear. Most Marines who were killed didn’t have the training or experience to handle their bikes.” 

With the mantra of being a Marine 24/7, Joyce C. Haas, safety manager, II MEF, said some Marines might not carry the same mindset away from their workspace.

“Marines want to be defiant once they get off work because some feel they are being controlled in their workspace,” Haas said. “The only time they are in control is in their personal motor vehicle or off base. Some may not feel the same rules apply to them.”

Miller said driving problems can stem from small unit leadership and not holding a Marine accountable for their actions. 

“Leaders have to be intrusive about their Marines driving habits. It should be as important as what they do on the job,” he explained. “When leaders find out their Marine received a traffic violation on or off base, they should take appropriate action. If a leader identifies the problem and does nothing about it, then these same problems will go on.”

With many units getting ready to deploy, the upcoming holidays should be a time where Marines celebrate with loved ones, friends and families. To ensure Marines return, leathernecks must adhere to safe driving guidelines and help police their own. For more information on the motorcycle safety course, remedial driving course or other safety classes, contact the II MEF safety office at 451-4288.