The Transatlantic Division kick-starts Motorcycle Safety Month

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Divison
Published May 24, 2021
Motorcycle riders assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division receive a printout of the Tires and Wheels, Controls, Lights, Oil, Chassis and Stand, or T-CLOCS, safety check list during a motorcycle safety training course, at the division headquarters in Winchester Va., May 13, 2021. (U.S. Army Photo by Sherman Hogue, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division public affairs office)

Motorcycle riders assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division receive a printout of the Tires and Wheels, Controls, Lights, Oil, Chassis and Stand, or T-CLOCS, safety check list during a motorcycle safety training course, at the division headquarters in Winchester Va., May 13, 2021. (U.S. Army Photo by Sherman Hogue, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division public affairs office)

Motorcycle riders assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division conduct a motorcycle safety training course at their Winchester, Va., headquarters, May 13, 2021, in order to prepare for the summer riding season. (U.S. Army Photo by Sherman Hogue, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division public affairs office)

Motorcycle riders assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division conduct a motorcycle safety training course at their Winchester, Va., headquarters, May 13, 2021, in order to prepare for the summer riding season. (U.S. Army Photo by Sherman Hogue, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division public affairs office)

Tim Tarafas, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division Equal Employment Opportunity chief, motorcycle mentor and avid rider, goes through the steps of the Tires and Wheels, Controls, Lights, Oil, Chassis and Stand, or T-CLOCS, safety check list during a motorcycle safety training course at the division headquarters in Winchester Va., May 13, 2021. (U.S. Army Photo by Sherman Hogue, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division public affairs office)

Tim Tarafas, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division Equal Employment Opportunity chief, motorcycle mentor and avid rider, goes through the steps of the Tires and Wheels, Controls, Lights, Oil, Chassis and Stand, or T-CLOCS, safety check list during a motorcycle safety training course at the division headquarters in Winchester Va., May 13, 2021. (U.S. Army Photo by Sherman Hogue, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division public affairs office)

Rick Mocarski, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Middle East District information technology specialist, goes through the steps and devices used for checking motorcycle tire air pressure during a Transatlantic Division motorcycle safety training course at the division headquarters in Winchester Va., May 13, 2021. (U.S. Army Photo by Sherman Hogue, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division public affairs office)

Rick Mocarski, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Middle East District information technology specialist, goes through the steps and devices used for checking motorcycle tire air pressure during a Transatlantic Division motorcycle safety training course at the division headquarters in Winchester Va., May 13, 2021. (U.S. Army Photo by Sherman Hogue, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division public affairs office)

WINCHESTER, Va. - May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. This coincides with the beginning of riding season for many Soldiers, civilians, and family members and marks the beginning of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Summer Safety Campaign, designed to help mitigate risk across a multitude of activities during the spring and summer seasons.

To kick-start the campaign, the Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division held a motorcycle safety training event at its Winchester, Va., headquarters, May 13, 2021, highlighting safe practices and procedures for riders.

Melanie Barajas, Transatlantic Division Safety and Occupational Health chief, coordinated the training event along with Rick Macarski, a Transatlantic Middle East District information technology specialist, and Tim Tarafas, the Transatlantic Division Equal Employment Opportunity Office chief, who is also a motorcycle mentor assisting riders one on one when needed.

“We have employees, family members, and friends who ride motorcycles and we know the summer months mean family vacations and more people on the highways, especially with the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions,” Barajas said. “Therefore, we are raising awareness by reminding riders to be aware of their surroundings, ride safe, and ride smart. In addition, drivers must stay extra vigilant, watch out for motorcycles, and keep a safe distance.”

A major portion of the training, led by Tarafas, was the T-CLOCS Safety Check List. T-CLOCS is a 53 point safety check list that stands for: Tires and Wheels, Controls, Lights, Oil, Chassis, and Stand.

“Motorcyclists face numerous safety risks, such as mechanical failures, weather conditions and other motorists,” Tarafas explained. “Unlike a car a motorcycle offers very little to no protection for the rider so serious injuries or even fatalities are more common with a motorcycle accident.

“If you have a blow-out on a car, even at highway speeds, it is fairly easy to safely move that car to the side of the road. A motorcycle having a blow-out at highway speeds can often lead to a serious crash,” Tarafas continued.

“Checking the condition of the bike is important to ensure proper operation from the start. Also, since there is significantly less protection than a car or truck, it is very important that riders and passengers are wearing appropriate protective gear to reduce injuries in an incident,” Tarafas said.

“There are many dangers on the roads for motorcycle riders, Tarafas continued. “The motorcycle safety campaign aims to educate riders as well as motorists on everything from cell phone use to weather changes.”

Jeffrey Slater, a Transatlantic Middle East District contract manager, civil engineer and former U.S. Army combat engineer, attended the training. He has been riding for a little over ten years.

“Statistically speaking, most motorcycle collisions are caused by automobiles,” Slater stated. “So we don't have the luxury of being anything less than 110% alert. That's 100% for us and 10% to cover for the inattentiveness of the auto driver.”

“Cell phones are another danger,” Tarafas added. “Motorists checking their cell phones or talking on them while driving are dangerous and unpredictable. Cars will swerve, slow down, and not stop in time.

“The weather can be dangerous as well,” Tarafas continued. “In the mountains here in this area, it can be bright and sunny one minute and cold, raining and snowing the next. You can plan your ride based on weather reports but you can experience a sudden change without warning.”

The training event covered safety procedures in various conditions and situations as well as tips and advice on managing the day to day maintenance and operation. Tarafas recommended riders attend training classes even if they are experienced.

“I have taken the motorcycle safety class offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation four times throughout my 30 years of riding,” Tarafas said. “Each time I learned something new. It was either a new technique for riding, new or changed laws, or just learned something about my bike and the way it handles in different situations to improve my skills and safety.”

Lawrence Alexander, a Middle East District budget analyst who also at-tended the training, and has been riding off and on since 1979 and spent 24 years in the Air Force as a meteorologist said it was an excellent refresher on the importance of regular maintenance and inspection.

“While headlights and tire pressure might be intuitive, tension of the chain or belt and stiffness of shocks may not be,” Alexander said. “Tim and Rick both shared some personal experiences and riding techniques that will no doubt come in handy going forward.”

Dangers notwithstanding, the course attendees agreed on one main aspect of riding.

“The exhilaration and freedom you feel when out on the open road is incredible,” Alexander said. “I personally would submit that it plays an integral role in my mental well-being. It provides an outlet for me when life gets too stressful.”

“Absolutely!” Tarafas agreed. “I deal with a lot of mental stress with my job, home and the current environment. The motorcycle gives me the release of that mental stress. Once I get on and start riding, the tensions and stressors all disappear.”

“During the spring and fall, I can really smell and feel the season,” Slater said. “The scents of the farms, trees, and flowers are really intense. And don’t forget the fantastic gas mileage. We're also the coolest dudes and dudettes in the building,” he added with a proud smile.

Slater, who won the Middle East District’s first and only Motorcycle Safety Day award for best looking motorcycle a few years ago, went on to say there are recent studies that show a decrease in stress when riding a motorcycle.

“It's an activity that serves to focus the mind and clears out competing thoughts. There's no room for daydreaming or worrying or anything else. If you're not focused, you're off the road or leaving parts of yourself on the road,” Slater stated.

The event also allowed the riders to share stories of the best and worst things about riding.

“The worst part is the time it takes to get myself together, Slater shared. “I can't just grab my keys and go. It takes preparation and planning to ride a motorcycle safely.”

“Stop and go traffic is the worst,” Alexander added. “Or finding gravel in a curve where you weren't expecting it.”

“I can truthfully say that any day I'm riding on my motorcycle is the best day,” Tarafas said. “And it is even better if you are with a passenger you enjoy spending time with or you are riding with a group of friends. Doesn't matter where you go, just the fact that you go.”

The motorcycle safety training event is held annually in May but motorcycle training courses are available year round. For more information go to the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center website at https://safety.army.mil/OFF-DUTY/PMV-2-Motorcycles/Motorcycle-Safety-Awareness-Month/MSAM-May-2021 and the National Highway Traffic Safety Committee website at https://www.nsc.org/road-safety/safety-topics/motorcycle-safety. Or contact your local organizations safety office for information.


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division serves as USACE’s tip of the spear in one of the most dynamic construction environments in the world, STRENGTHENING PARTNERSHIPS, BUILDING CAPACITY, and ENHANCING SECURITY for our nation, allies, and partners. 

We deliver agile, responsive, and innovative, design, construction, engineering and contingency solutions in support of U.S. Central Command, U.S. Special Operations Command and other global partners to advance national security interests.

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