Marine is latest service member do be killed in a motorcycle crash

A 20-year Marine who died on Sunday near Camp Pendleton, California is one of more than 60 U.S. service members who have been killed in motorcycle crashes since October, according to data kept by the military branches.

The identity of the Marine, who was assigned to the 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, has not yet been publicly released pending next of kin notification, 1st Lt. T. Trey Judd, a spokesperson for the logistics group told Task & Purpose.

Police in Oceanside, California responded to a report of a crash about 7:51 p.m. on Sunday at the intersection of Douglas Drive and North River Road, a police news release says.

The Marine was thrown from his motorcycle, a black Indian Scout, when a Volkswagen Passat turned in front of him into a parking lot. He was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

This crash came just 10 days after two sailors riding motorcycles died in a chain-reaction crash near Camp Pendleton: Petty Officers 1st Class Stephen Jermaine Williams and Jess Lee Davis. A third sailor who was riding a motorcycle at the time was injured in the crash.

Dozens of deaths every year

A total of 63 service members have died while riding motorcycles since, October 1, 2023, the beginning of 2024 Fiscal Year, the data shows. That breaks down to 24 soldiers, 10 Marines, 19 sailors, and nine Department of the Air Force personnel, which includes Air Force troops and Space Force Guardians. Another Marine died on duty in March in a motorcycle accident during a command ride in San Diego.

Though relatively few troops ride motorcycles, those who do represent an outsized percentage of troops killed in off-duty mishaps every year, according to military data. Since October, Motorcycle accidents have accounted for 68% of private motor vehicle deaths in the Navy, 53% in the Marine Corps, 50% of Air and Space Force deaths, and 46% of Army PMV deaths.

The number of military members killed in motorcycle crashes so far in Fiscal Year 2024 is on pace to match the 89 service members killed in 2023: 38 soldiers, six Marines, 23 sailors, and 22 airmen and guardians.

Mandatory safety courses

All service members who want to drive motorcycles are required to pass both the Basic and Advanced Rider Courses along with refresher training every five years.

During the 16-hour Basic Rider Course, which is approved by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, sailors learn how to properly operate a motorcycle and what protective clothing and gear they need to wear, a Navy spokesperson told Task & Purpose.

“The Navy takes the safety of Sailors seriously, especially when it comes to operating motorcycles,” the spokesperson said. “As we enter the summer months and see an increase of riders, the Navy has increased messaging to Sailors on safe riding habits and how to find the proper safety resources.”

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In addition to its current motorcycle training, the Army is changing its Motorcycle Mentorship Program by creating a requirement for unit Motorcycle Safety Program Coordinators, said Jimmie E. Cummings, Jr., a spokesperson for the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center. The training for those coordinators is still being developed.

The Air Force maintains a robust training program to make sure that more than 17,000 military motorcycle riders are aware of the potential dangers of driving a motorcycle; it offers a mentorship program for riders to share their knowledge and experiences, and it has a website with information about the latest protective equipment and training, according to the Air Force Safety Center.

“Motorcycle mishaps are one of the leading causes of accidental death amongst our Airmen and Guardians every year,” a statement from the safety center says. “Riding a motorcycle is an inherently risky activity; however, the risks can be mitigated with preparation and awareness.” 

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Jeff Schogol

Senior Pentagon Reporter

Jeff Schogol is a senior staff writer for Task & Purpose. He reports on both the Defense Department as a whole as well as individual services, covering a variety of topics that include personnel, policy, military justice, deployments, and technology. His apartment in Alexandria, Va., has served as the Task & Purpose Pentagon bureau since the pandemic first struck in March 2020. The dwelling is now known as Forward Operating Base Schogol.