Distracted driving enlists debilitating dangers

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Stephan Coleman
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
There is no new way of saying it, but using a cell phone while driving, especially texting, is extremely dangerous and unnecessarily risky.

"Any time distraction is added to driving, obviously the chance of accidents increase," said Staff Sgt. Samantha Paschal, 81st Training Wing ground safety. "It's a safety issue."

Study after study demonstrates the dangers. Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves, according to Monash University.

If the danger isn't motivation enough, it's important to be aware that while on a military installation, it is against several directives to use a cell phone or other media devices while driving.

"The rule applies to any media device," said Staff Sgt. Bradley Jenkins, 81st Security Forces Squadron police services. "There are many ways around it, wireless earpieces, speaker phone, ear buds--but one ear must remain unobstructed. The key is not to touch your phone at all while driving."

Violators will have their on-base driving privileges suspended for seven days after the first offense, 30 days after the second offense, and a year revocation for a third offense.

"On occasion we'll get the staff to stand along the sidewalk to spot drivers on their phones," said Jenkins. "It's really easy to spot, especially when somebody is texting and driving. They swerve around or pause at stop signs for a long time."

"Military members have no excuse," said Paschal. "There is a Department of Defense Instruction, Air Force Instruction, and Executive Order from the President concerning distracted driving."

The Executive Order from Oct. 1, 2009 states that federal employees shall not engage in text messaging when driving a government or privately-owned vehicle. "Texting" or "text messaging" means reading from or entering data into any handheld device for any reason.

"Technical school students receive two briefings: one is the local conditions briefing and the second one is a 4-hour course on traffic safety," said Tech. Sgt. Judy Mehaffy, 81st TRW ground safety. "Individuals who are temporary duty at Keesler for 30 days or more receive the local conditions briefing. Newcomers receive the newcomers briefing. First-term Airmen go to an additional traffic safety course."

According to Mehaffy, All briefings given by the wing safety office is intended to instill safety as first nature.