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Commentary | Nov. 23, 2010

Hang up, buckle up

By Lt. Col. Mark Postema 1st Fighter Wing Chief of Safety

There I was, riding my motorcycle along Sweeney Boulevard when a blue sedan at a stop sign began to roll out of the Exchange parking lot and right into my path. Fortunately, we avoided a collision as the driver stopped halfway in the intersection once she saw me.

As I rode around her car wondering what she was thinking, I soon got my answer. Her left hand appeared to be glued to her ear, holding a cell phone, and she was clearly distracted from driving safely. However, instant justice was provided as one of the dedicated professionals from 633d Security Forces Squadron pulled up behind her car almost immediately with his patrol vehicle's lights flashing.

This type of traffic violation along with the increasing trend of texting while driving can cause drivers to become distracted and delay their reactions--in some cases as much as having a Blood Alcohol Content of .08, according to a University of Utah study. Air Force Instruction 91-207, The U.S. Air Force Traffic Safety Program, mandates that "vehicle operators on an AF installation and operators of government owned, leased or rented vehicles, on or off an AF installation, shall not use cell phones while the vehicle is in operation, except when using a hands-free device or hands-free operating mode." Base law enforcement conducts random seatbelt and cell phone check points around the base periodically looking for infractions.

Speaking of seatbelt checks, I have been amazed to find drivers and passengers still not wearing seatbelts. During one recent seatbelt check, I recorded a few of the excuses given as to why those stopped were not buckled up. They included, "I was just going on a short trip," "I get in and out of my truck a lot," and -- my favorite -- "my airbag will protect me."

Amusing? Perhaps. But they are all poor excuses for not obeying the law. The National Highway Transportation and Safety Agency cites buckling up properly as the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in the event of a crash. Seatbelt use is your best defense against other distracted or impaired drivers.

Did I mention it is also the law?

Don't accept any unnecessary risks. That text message or phone call can wait until you pull over and park. Protect yourself and your passengers with strict adherence to seatbelt use. Put your cell phone down, buckle up and stay safe.