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Next text could be your last

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, MISS. -- Did you read the Sun Herald on Sunday? If you didn't, I highly recommend you read Robin Fitzgerald's article titled, "OMG! TWD is definitely not kewl." In the article, Ms. Fitzgerald highlights the dangers we face with drivers on our public roadways sending text messages...while driving! 

Texting while driving? Really? Are people really that reckless and irresponsible to do that? Sadly, the answer is yes. In fact, when you check out the Sun Herald's Web site, you'll see numerous comments to the story of folks debating and defending the use of cell phones while driving. The debate is lively with some proposing that use of the phones while driving be made illegal while others argue that it is an essential part of their business to use the cell phone while driving. 

Here on base, the rules are simple. You will not operate a cell phone while driving unless it is in hands-free mode...and out of your hands. This is Air Force policy and will be enforced. The safety of our Airmen and our families is very important to me and I have directed the security forces to strictly enforce this order. Having the cell phone on speakerphone and holding it in your hands is not hands-free operation and is a violation of orders. If you are a military member, violation of orders will be handled in accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice. If you are a civilian, you will be fined and have your driving privileges suspended in accordance with policy. 

Why does the Air Force have this policy? It is because there is ample evidence that demonstrates that folks who are distracted by cell phone use are less alert of their environment and more susceptible to be involved in or cause accidents. The business of the Air Force is dangerous enough and introducing the additional risk of cell phone use while driving is unacceptable. 

Before you congratulate yourself for being a safe driver because you do not use the cell phone while driving, take a good look at other risky behaviors. Unfortunately, we have way too many folks speeding on base and in our housing areas. We have too many people tail-gating. Too many people do not wear their seat belts or allow their children to be unsecured in their moving vehicles. I've even seen some women fixing their makeup while driving too. Off-base, I've seen some dangerous boneheads who put the pedal to the metal and speed down Pass Road as they leave the base. Don't even ask about drinking and driving...you know where I stand on that! Folks, it isn't hard to follow the rules, so why don't we do better? 

We can do better and I promise you we'll be stepping up our vigilance in enforcing the laws and policies. 

If you are talking on a cell phone while driving, don't be surprised to see the blue lights of our defenders behind you. Similarly, if you are speeding, tail-gating, or driving irresponsibility, you may be subject to a "Blue Light Special" courtesy of our 81st Security Forces Squadron while on base and the Biloxi Police Department off-base. Don't be surprised to see increased seat-belt checks around the base too. 

You may be thinking, why is the commander making a big deal of this? Three reasons: safety, wingmanship and precision. 

Our Air Force relies on its members to have a respect for safety to ensure effective operations. Our mission depends on our personnel consistently operating safely. 

The second reason, wingmanship, is because we care about you. As wingmen, we look out for each other and protect each other. 

Finally, the third reason, precision, deals with the ability to follow and execute orders. Would you trust an Airman that does not follow orders? 

The laws are clear and you are tested on them before you get your license. The Air Force has clearly defined the rules of the road on-base as well. As Airmen, we are expected to follow orders and obey the laws. It's that simple. 

So, next time you are behind the wheel and the phone rings with a call or alerts to a text, pull over to do your business. Otherwise, expect our security forces team to do demonstrate how they do their business.