This article is not intended to cover army, navy, or airforce regulations for their personnel. I will cover this in another piece. Marines at bases like Camp Pendleton, Camp Lejeune, and 29 Palms who wish to ride motorcycles must follow certain regulations to ensure their safety and the safety of others on the road. The basic rule is if you have the balance to ride an ordinary bicycle and meet the minimum age requirements of 15 years old, you can move forward to ride motorbikes. Still, motorcycle crashes with other motor vehicles happen with young Marines even when they follow transportation standards, and there are no moving violations.
Young Marines and Rider Crashes
The average U.S. Marine is young, with many recruits joining the military straight out of high school. This youth and inexperience can lead to a higher risk of motorcycle accidents, especially if they are new riders. According to a 2019 report from the Naval Safety Center, motorcycle accidents accounted for 39% of all fatal mishaps involving active-duty Marines. The report noted that young, inexperienced riders were at a higher risk of crashing and that the majority of these accidents occurred during the first year of riding.
To address this issue, the Marine Corps has implemented several motorcycle safety programs and initiatives to reduce the number of wrecks and promote safe riding practices among its personnel. I am an inactive U.S. Marine, Michael Ehline. I am a motorcycle law expert and used to be stationed at Camp Pendleton. I am here today to discuss mandatory motorcycle regulations and some great tips for Marines who wish to avoid automobile collisions to stay in good steed with the Department of Defense and safely make it back to their installation for formation.
Are Marines allowed to Ride Motorcycles?
Yes, Marines are allowed to be motorcyclists. However, there are certain individual requirements and regulations that they must comply with in order to be lawful operators and legally carry a passenger. In order to ride a motorcycle on base or during official military duties, Marines must complete a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) rider course and possess a valid motorcycle license. Additionally, they must wear appropriate personal protective equipment and adhere to all traffic laws and regulations. Off-duty riding is permitted, but Marines are encouraged to use caution and ride responsibly to avoid any violation of UCMJ or civilian regs for their locations.
Regulations for Marines Riding Motorcycles?
Completion of a Motorcycle Safety Course [Foundation] (MSF) Course?
All Marines who wish to ride a motorcycle are required to complete an MSF course. This course provides instruction on motorcycle safety, proper riding techniques, and accident avoidance, especially at night.
Do Many Marines Lack Motorcycle Safety Training?
Maybe. It is difficult to generalize about the motorcycle operator safety training of all U.S. Marines as the extent of their training can vary depending on a number of factors such as their military occupational specialty (MOS) and personal interests.
However, the U.S. Marine Corps strongly emphasizes motorcycle safety and offers a lot of training documentation. They also offer a comprehensive training program to all service members who operate motorcycles. The program includes both classroom instruction and practical training on safe riding techniques.
The Marine Corps offers the Basic Rider Course (BRC) and the Experienced Rider Course (ERC) through its Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS) program. Both courses are taught by certified Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) instructors and cover topics such as basic motorcycle operation, risk management, and defensive riding techniques.
- Basic Rider Course (BRC): Marines are required to complete the BRC before they are authorized to operate a motorcycle on or off duty. The BRC covers topics such as basic motorcycle operation, risk management, and defensive riding techniques.
CAVEAT: If you currently maintain a valid motorcycle permit, you must pass a motorcycle road test prior to expiration or you must complete the BRC. During the permit period, operators must be helmeted whenever operating their street bike and will be prohibited from carrying passengers on the bike.
- Experienced Rider Course (ERC) – Sports Bikes Require More Training: Marines who plan to ride sports bikes or high-performance motorcycles are also required to complete the ERC. This covers advanced riding techniques such as cornering, swerving, and emergency braking. It also includes classroom instruction on risk management and motorcycle maintenance topics.
In addition to these courses, the Marine Corps offers additional training and resources to promote safe motorcycle ridings, such as mentorship programs and regular safety inspections of motorcycles. That being said, there have been instances where individual Marines have failed to follow proper motorcycle safety protocols and been issued a fine for violating safety or speed laws. Sometimes their offense comes with children or other individuals being reported killed or resulting in other accidents and injuries.
In these cases, it may be possible that the individual did not receive adequate training or failed to adhere to the training they received. However, these incidents are generally considered to be isolated and do not represent the overall training and preparedness of the Marine Corps in regard to motorcycle safety. The same policy applies to mopeds and other machines where a passenger is seated on two wheels with a motor where a safety harness does not restrain you. Contact us if you have other issues we didn’t cover here before you register for either examination.
Valid Driver’s License?
Just because you ride a bicycle doesn’t mean you can buy a motorcycle and ride away from your base or air station. Unlike a car, safe motorcycle riding can take several years. This means the Marines are strict. In order to ride a motorcycle as a U.S. Marine, a valid state-issued driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement is required. This endorsement indicates that the license holder has passed a written and practical exam specifically for motorcycle operations.
Marines are required to carry their driver’s license and proof of insurance with them at all times while operating a motorcycle. As discussed below, they must also wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Getting Your Motorcycle Endorsement (CY)
It’s important to note that each state in the U.S. has its own requirements for obtaining a motorcycle endorsement on a driver’s license. Marines who are stationed in a new state may need to obtain a new driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement if their current license does not meet the state’s requirements. They should consult with their local military installation’s transportation office or the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for specific guidance on obtaining the required license and endorsement.
What Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is Required for USMC Motorcycle Riders?
Marines are required to wear appropriate protective gear and clothing when riding a motorcycle.
The USMC requires operators to wear the following Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):
- Department of Transportation (DOT)-approved helmet: A properly fitting DOT-approved helmet must always be worn while riding a motorcycle on base. Failure to wear helmets under these guidelines can also lead to office hours or a court martial.
- Proper eye protection: You must wear shatter-resistant goggles, eyeglasses, or a face shield attached to the helmet.
- Gloves: Full-fingered gloves made of leather or other abrasion-resistant material must be worn to provide protection to the hands.
- Long-sleeved shirt or jacket: A long-sleeved shirt or jacket must be worn to provide protection to the arms.
- Long pants: Full-length pants made of leather or other abrasion-resistant material must be worn to provide protection to the legs.
- Over-the-ankle footwear: Sturdy over-the-ankle footwear made of leather or other sturdy materials must be worn to provide protection to the feet and ankles. This also means wearing hard sole shoes.
These instructions apply to everyone, including military, DoD civilians, other agency personnel, contractors, or visitors on a DoD installation. It is important to note that these PPE requirements could potentially vary based on the location and circumstances of the trip, and they should always prioritize their safety while riding when visiting locations on or off base. If you have questions, you should contact the base traffic authority.
Regular Motorcycle Maintenance
Marines are responsible for ensuring that their properly registered motorcycle is properly maintained, in good working order, and completed before riding on or off the post.
This includes regular inspections of:
- Windshield (if any exists)
Marines are also expected to check and maintain other components, as well as make regular oil changes and other maintenance tasks.
Abiding by Traffic Laws
Marines are required to obey all traffic laws when riding a motorcycle, including speed limits, traffic signals, and other regulations.
Special Riding in Groups Regs
Marines traveling in groups are required to follow specific guidelines to ensure the safety of all riders, including maintaining a safe distance between bikes, using hand signals to communicate and line up in a staggered formation.
These regulations are in place to help ensure the safety of Marines who ride motorcycles and other drivers and pedestrians on the road. The Provost Marshall offers many related programs to assist Marines.
Other Provost Marshal’s Office (PMO) Programs and Resources for U.S. Marines
The PMO of the United States Marine Corps offers a variety of programs and resources to support the safety and well-being of Marines and their families.
Some of the key PMO programs and resources include:
- Law Enforcement: The PMO provides law enforcement services to ensure the safety and security of Marines, their families, and civilians on Marine Corps installations. This includes criminal investigations, traffic enforcement, and emergency response.
- Traffic Safety: The PMO offers a number of programs to promote safe driving practices among Marines, including safety training, defensive driving courses, and the use of seat belts and child safety seats.
- Crime Prevention: The PMO offers a range of crime prevention programs to help Marines reduce their risk of becoming victims of crime. These programs include neighborhood watch, personal safety training, and property protection tips.
- Family Advocacy: The PMO provides resources and support for Marines and their families and command who may be experiencing domestic abuse or other forms of family violence. This includes counseling services, legal assistance, and advocacy.
- Victim Services: The PMO offers support and assistance to Marines who are victims of crime, including crisis intervention, emotional support, and referrals to community resources.
- Emergency Management: The PMO is responsible for emergency management on Marine Corps installations, including planning, training, and response to natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other emergencies.
- Sexual Assault Prevention and Response: The PMO provides resources and support for Marines who have experienced sexual assault, including advocacy, counseling, and medical care.
These are just a few examples of the many programs and resources offered by the PMO to support the safety and well-being of U.S. Marines and their families. As noted, The Marine Corps promotes a culture of safety and responsibility among its riders through education and outreach efforts. This includes regular safety briefings, outreach events, and peer mentoring programs to encourage safe riding practices and reduce the risk of accidents.
Miscellaneous State Laws for U.S. Marine Motorcycle Riders
Motorcycle laws can vary by state, and it’s important for all riders, including U.S. Marines, to be aware of the laws in their state of residence and any states they may be traveling through. Obviously, staying off or cell phones is universal nowadays to lessen distractions, so keep them secured and go hands-free, for that matter.
Here are a few examples of state laws that may be of particular importance to U.S. Marine riders:
- Helmet laws: Some states require all motorcyclists to wear a helmet while riding, regardless of age. Other states have more lenient helmet laws that may only require riders under a certain age or with a certain level of insurance coverage to wear a helmet. It’s important to be aware of the helmet laws in your state and any states you may be traveling through and always wear a helmet regardless of the law.
- Lane splitting laws: Lane splitting, or riding between two lanes of traffic, is illegal in most states. However, lane splitting is legal in California, albeit with certain restrictions. Marines should be aware of the lane-splitting laws in their state and any states they may be traveling through and avoid lane-splitting except where it is specifically allowed.
- Headlight laws: Some states require all bikers to keep their headlights on at all times while riding, regardless of the time of day or weather conditions. Other states may have more lenient headlight laws that only require headlights to be on during certain times or in certain conditions. Be aware of the headlight laws in your state and any states you may be traveling through, and ensure headlights are always functioning properly.
- Noise laws: Some states restrict the amount of noise a bike can emit and require all motorcycles to be equipped with a muffler that meets certain noise standards. U.S. Marines should be aware of the noise laws in their state and any states they may be traveling through and ensure that their muffler or exhaust is functioning properly and meets any applicable noise standards.
What About State Licenses?
In most states, including military installations, there are separate requirements for obtaining a driver’s license and a motorcycle endorsement. Generally, in order to obtain a motorcycle endorsement, a person must first hold a valid license.
Regarding age requirements, most states allow individuals as young as 16 to obtain a motorcycle endorsement with the completion of a safety course. In contrast, others require individuals to be 18 years of age or older. It’s important for all riders to be aware of and follow the laws in their state of residence and any states they may be traveling through to promote safe and responsible riding practices for the vehicle involved.
- “Marine Corps Reports 18th Motorcycle Fatality of 2019” (Military.com): This article discusses the 18th fatal accident involving a Marine in 2019 and notes that accidents accounted for 39% of all fatal mishaps among active-duty Marines that year. It includes a quote from the Commanding General of Marine Corps Installation Pacific emphasizing the importance of rider training.
- “Motorcycle fatalities are surging among Marines. Now they’re teaming up with Harley-Davidson to try and stop it.” (Task & Purpose): This article provides an overview of the Marine Corps initiatives and notes these crashes accounted for 39% of all fatal mishaps among active-duty Marines in 2019. It includes a Marine Corps safety officer quote emphasizing the need for ongoing training and education.
- “Motorcycle Accidents Among Marines a Growing Problem, Safety Officials Say” (Military.com): This article provides additional context on the 2019 Naval Safety Center report and notes that motorcycle accidents were the leading cause of off-duty fatalities among Marines in 2019. It includes a Marine Corps safety official quote emphasizing the need for riders to take responsibility for their own safety.