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Driving Down Distractions

Driving Down Distractions
WILLIAM MURRAY
U.S. Army Force Management Support Agency
Fort Belvoir, Va.

Outside of combat (and Thanksgiving with the in-laws), few endeavors are as fraught with danger as driving. Each year, there are more than 30,000 traffic fatalities in America. It almost makes the run to Kabul look sane. And yet, every day we see people behind the wheel eating, texting, reading — doing just about anything but watching the road.

Ever heard of situational awareness? You know, it’s what makes you take that second look at a pile of rocks along the convoy route or notice the locals suddenly disappearing from your foot patrol zone. Bring it back home and situational awareness is looking at the kid playing with his dog and wondering if he might rush out into the street. It’s watching that car about to enter from a side street to see if the driver has looked your way and knows you’re coming. Basically, it’s staying alert for the hazards around you.

Some motorists rarely, if ever, practice situational awareness. I’m stationed in the Washington, D.C., area and dread my afternoon and weekend commutes. Here are a few examples of why.

I once witnessed an Army spouse (identified by the numerous “I (HEART) MY SOLDIER” stickers on her vehicle) texting while operating in heavy traffic on Interstate 495. My wife and I watched as she got closer to the car ahead of her every time traffic stopped. When traffic suddenly halted after reaching about 30 mph, she panicked and threw her device against the windshield, trying to regain control of her vehicle. Fortunately, she stopped in time. The next time she passed us, she had both hands on the wheel.

One afternoon I noticed a Soldier having an animated conversation on his cellphone. He was using the cross-handed (right hand to left ear) method to hold the phone as we crept along Highway 1. When traffic stopped, he only missed hitting me by going onto the shoulder. He recovered his phone, gave me an annoyed look, pulled back onto the road and continued the same cross-handed cellphone conversation.

It’s not just that distracted drivers disrupt the flow of traffic or using hand-held devices while driving on post is prohibited by regulation. The real issue is these drivers pose a dangerous threat to everyone else on the road. I once had to send my first sergeant and a platoon leader to the chapel where the wife of a staff sergeant worked. Their duty was to tell this young mother of three that her Soldier had gotten distracted on the road and wouldn’t be coming home — ever. What about you? Is a phone call or text message worth your life?

Although it may be hard for many to believe, it is possible to drive without having a cellphone grafted to your ear. Instead, try using a little common sense. If you’re giving someone a heads up that you’re coming, call before you get on the road. It won’t delay you that much and you’ll improve your chances of actually arriving. Got an incoming text message? Wait until you can stop to send back a reply.

Summer is on its way, and many of us will be hitting the roads with family and friends for a well-deserved vacation. Just make sure you bring them — and yourself — back in one piece.


Did You Know?


April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the National Safety Council encourages motorists to take a pledge to drive cell-free.

  • 1 April 2014
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 13307
  • Comments: 0
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