Personal choices help all drivers stay safe

| June 16, 2011 | 0 Comments

Directorate of Installation Safety
U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii

In part one of a two-part series, DIS looks at motorcycle accidents, driver inattention

Distracted Driving

Distracted Driving

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Every year, safety professionals across the Army look at accident statistics to predict what trends are developing both on and off post.

Not surprisingly, the causes of most accidents remain the same, year after year.

The leading cause of death for Soldiers in Hawaii has been untrained motorcycle riders in single-vehicle accidents, according to Sammy Houseberg, director, Directorate of Installation Safety, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii.

Hawaii’s year-round tropical temperatures and sunny skies make it an optimal place to own and ride a motorcycle.

“Motorcycles are a fun way to get around,” said Bill Maxwell, safety specialist, DIS, and a motorcycle safety instructor for 22 years. “Here in Hawaii, we enjoy good riding weather nearly every day, and this may account for the large numbers of registered motorcycles on posts here.”

Unfortunately, these large numbers increase the accident rate for motorcyclists, Maxwell added.

Unlike cars, even a minor incident on a motorcycle can cause abrasions and broken bones, as motorcycles do not offer any type of buffer for their riders. After all, you don’t need to balance a car on two small-contact patches, Maxwell said, further stressing why rider training is key.

Maxwell said Basic or Experienced Rider courses focus on areas that riders need help with, including quick stops, swerving and negotiating curves. Untrained riders often haven’t learned counter-steering techniques to make the bike turn quickly, and they may run off the road or into oncoming traffic, resulting in disaster.

Inexperience is the primary cause for most of the fatal accidents involving Soldiers, here, during the last six years, according to Maxwell.

“Trained riders still find themselves in precarious situations. But nearly all of the fatal accidents (here) were with untrained riders, showing that training is an important first step,” Maxwell said.

Speed, alcohol and inattention are the leading causes for roadway accidents, according to Clint German, safety manager, DIS.

“On the road, inattention or distraction can turn a quick errand into a life-changing experience,” German said. “A distraction is when your attention is diverted due to something in or out of the vehicle. Inattention is doing something that keeps your attention away from driving.”

To help combat this, the City and County of Oahu has banned using hand-held electronic devices while driving, following the lead of many states with similar laws.

Talking on a phone or texting while driving reduces the driver’s ability to control the vehicle and provide all attention to the road. Studies have shown that drivers talking on a cell phone drive as badly as a driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

As most road trips in Hawaii tend to be reasonably short, generally less than 30 minutes, German suggests letting the call go to voicemail. Drivers can return the call when arriving at their destination. If drivers must make a call, find a safe spot to pull over and then give full attention to the call.

When on the road, maintain awareness of drivers using cell phones and watch for erratic speed and weaving within lanes.

National Safety Month

The months between Memorial Day and Labor Day are historically among the most dangerous for the Army family.

Therefore, every year, the U.S. Army Combat Readiness /Safety Center emphasizes safety during the high-risk critical days of summer.

In June, the nation also observes National Safety Month. During the observance, military and civilian agencies coordinate efforts to focus on safety awareness, particularly since accidents usually peak during the summer months.

All Army personnel — service members, families and civilians — must maintain vigilance and look out for one another during the weeks ahead, during breaks for vacation and during leisurely outings.

The Army’s Safe Summer campaign, “What have you done to save a life today?” is currently underway. It emphasizes safety during beach activities, camping, backyard grilling and driving, among other topics. The USACR/Safety Center also provides information for unit-level briefs and other educational and motivational tools. Visit for details.

(Editor’s Note: In part two of the series, next week, DIS discusses common safety issues in the home and workplace.)

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