DOHA, Qatar – "It's an honor to showcase our latest technology at an important safety event for the local community," said U.S. Army Col. David G. Cotter, Area Support Group Qatar commander, at the 25th Gulf Cooperation Council Traffic Safety Week, in Doha, Qatar, March 16. U.S. servicemembers, stationed at Camp As Sayliyah, provided a motorcycle safety booth, exhibiting one of two Honda Safe Motorcyclist Awareness and Recognition Trainer (SMARTrainer) systems purchased by U.S. Army Central for installations in the Middle East. It marked the first time U.S. Armed Forces were involved in the Qatar annual safety activities organized by the National Campaign for Road Accident Prevention.
"This event is upgraded each year with new safety organizations, activities and equipment," said Adel Abdulla, Qatar traffic department police officer and committee organizer. According to Abdulla, the main problems on Qatar roads involve improper seat belt use, exceeding posted speed limits, ignoring traffic signals and drivers becoming distracted by mobile phones. This year's Traffic Safety Week focused on addressing these issues in an educational and entertaining environment that encouraged interaction between the large expatriate population, Qatari nationals and police officers.
"This motorcycle trainer was brought here to offer something special," said Al Hydeman, from Ervin, Calif. "It's an amazing mobile device." Hydeman, Motorcycle Safety Foundation managing director, delivered the SMARTrainer devices to U.S. Army Central installations in Qatar and Kuwait. The Honda system simulates real-world driving experiences by integrating a computer, monitor and printer with motorcycle controls, noise suppression headset and powerful software. MSF certifies instructors to use the hardware and software package as an educational tool for safe riding.
"This system allows instructors to teach people about motorcycle safety without taking them into traffic," said Hydeman. "When they crash, no bones are broken – only bruised egos." After a practice session, riders select one of 15 different hazard recognition routes – positioning them in urban congestion, complex suburban scenarios or monotonous highway touring environments. Each route can be ridden in daylight or at night, as well as under foggy conditions.
"Riding a motorcycle is a solo event," said Hydeman, "You don't have backseat drivers on the road, so we prefer everyone ride by themselves. Afterward, a report is printed to bring to their coach." The system's software analyzes the entire ride. Reports communicate distances to vehicles, pedestrians and obstacles, as well as effective use of the horn and brakes. Instructors can review reports that grade riders in eight different areas and playback scenarios using various angles.
"I learned to slow down and watch out for traffic signals... and watch the mirrors," said Talal Al Emadi. "I want to try again to earn a better grade." Emadi, a 17-year-old Qatari national, does not ride motorcycles himself, yet he was encouraged to learn the safety risks associated with motorcyclist on the road. According to Hydeman, it's common for students to strive for better performance grades, forcing them to learn safe driving tactics.
"Ahmed is a great example of how this system teaches students," said Hydeman, while announcing a perfect score for Ahmed Ali, a 19-year-old Pakistani expatriate who has lived in Qatar his entire life. The trainer quickly caught the attention of the Yamaha 800cc motorcycle owner at the expo. "When he found himself routinely earning poor grades, all he wanted to do was improve. After three days here, he was our first straight-A student."
"We are going to continue training instructors at Camp As Sayliyah this weekend," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Bradley Foster, from Plymouth, Mich. "There is a high motorcycle accident rate for servicemembers returning home from deployment. This trainer will help reintroduce them to safe riding principles before redeploying." Camp As Sayliyah is the first U.S. installation to MSF-certify servicemembers as SMARTrainer instructors in the Middle East. According to Hydeman, the Navy will soon start distributing the Honda systems worldwide.
"The Qataris have asked how to acquire one of the trainers," said Hydeman, "as well as one of the local traffic schools. Motorcyclists everywhere need this training. It is possible to ride all your life and never crash. It's all about properly managing risks."
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