NCO authority over vehicle safety extended

2 Oct 2008 | Gunnery Sgt. Bill Lisbon Marine Corps Air Station Yuma

After early indications that Marine noncommissioned officers are making a difference in off-duty vehicle safety, the Corps’ commandant extended the trial program that put NCOs in the driver’s seat of vehicle safety programs through the end of the year.

The Marine Corps announced the trial period, which originally ended Wednesday, would extend though the holiday season until Jan. 5, 2009.

The announcement, released Sept. 23 via Marine Administrative Message 536/08, continues intense attention on off-duty vehicle safety after a deadly year for the Corps.

The Corps ended the fiscal year Tuesday losing 47 Marines in off-duty vehicle accidents, according the Naval Safety Center. Motorcycle-related accidents were the leading cause, claiming 26 Marines, a record high since 2002, when the safety center began recording statistics.

Four-wheeled personal vehicle accidents, however, are the lowest since 2002. Twenty-one Marines were killed, compared an annual average of 37.3 in previous years.

In fiscal year 2007, 19 Marines died on motorcycles, then the highest number of deaths since FY-2002, according to the safety center. In FY-2006, 17 motorcyclists died. Another 13 were killed the year prior. Automobile accidents claimed 35 Marines in FY-2007, 41 the year prior and 29 in FY-2005.

“These numbers are staggering and completely unacceptable,” said commandant Gen. James T. Conway in All Marine Message 014/08 published April 23. “These trends fall short of the professionalism I expect from all Marines.”

In White Letter 2-08 published April 21, Conway empowered noncommissioned officers to take charge of the safety of their Marines by actively exercising full authority and accountability over their subordinates, to include denying leave and liberty for Marines deemed to be a safety risk.

Specifically, the commandant cracked down on motorcyclists—including recreational riders—who were required to report ownership of their bikes by September so commands could verify each rider’s license, registration and training.

Conway said the problem is not confined to junior Marines, however.

“Almost half our deaths on motorcycles have involved Marines who are sergeants or senior,” said Conway.

Conway charged leaders to “ensure strict adherence” to seat belt and motorcycle rules and reminded them three times that a Marine’s failure to comply is punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“Safety programs do not replace leadership,” said Conway in the April 23 message.

The message came approximately one year after Conway ordered seat belt use across the Corps.

“Seat belt use is mandatory for all Marines—whether operating or riding in a motor vehicle, on or off duty, or whether on or off any Department of Defense installation,” he wrote in White Letter 01-07 dated April 11, 2007.

Marine Corps Air Station Yuma