Tip and Slide
CAPT. MICHAEL HAGY
Fort Sam Houston Dental Activity
Fort Sam Houston, Texas
It was summer and our unit was headed to the field. My driver was a new private who’d just received her military driver’s license. Our assigned vehicle for this particular field problem was the Chemical Biological Protective Shelter, or CBPS. Additionally, we’d be pulling a trailer with a generator attached to it. It was drizzling, so the weather wasn’t optimal as we postured to head out for the three-hour convoy. The local area was under a flash flood warning and during our convoy brief, we were warned that our route would change if conditions deteriorated. Once the brief was complete, we were on our way.
At about the two-hour mark, the rain started to pour and range control closed several low water crossings along our planned route. The convoy commander selected an alternate, unimproved road with loose gravel along the center. The sides of the road were muddy with loose soil. The water was about 4-6 inches deep on the road, and my driver was sliding all over. She tried to maneuver the CBPS as if she was on a standard roadway, staying on the right side. I told her to stay in the center of the road. She obliged and everything was going smoothly.
The convoy started to slow down as we approached a hill. Several of the other vehicles had difficulty getting up the slick roadway, but the entire convoy eventually made it to the top. Then we started down the 5-percent-grade decline, which wasn’t a problem. The hazard turned out to be the sides of the road, which were about 6 inches lower than the center.
My driver started to slide to the right, and I told her to pull back to the center slowly. She complied and we continued for another 50 feet when she drifted to the right side again. This time, though, she quickly jerked the wheel, trying to get back to the center. The vehicle made it back to the center, but the generator trailer did not. The trailer stayed on the right, pulling the backend of the CBPS to the side of the road.
My driver panicked and slammed on the brakes. I shouted, “No!” but it was too late. The trailer pushed the back of the vehicle forward and the front end went toward the left side of the road. Before I knew what was going on, I felt the vehicle slide sideways down the road. I managed to yell, “Rollover,” before the vehicle tipped onto its right side and slid about 50 feet along the wet, muddy road.
My driver was frantic because she thought she killed me. I had hit my head and was dazed briefly, but by the time the rest of the convoy stopped and came to our rescue, I was alert and talking. We were both buckled in and hanging in our seats when the recovery team got us out. Fortunately, we weren’t hurt.
The accident turned out to be a Class D with less than $5,000 damage to the vehicle. We were lucky that day. An inexperienced driver and poor visibility and road conditions due to inclement weather were factors contributing to our accident that could’ve been scrutinized better. Every time I get in a military vehicle, I think back to that accident and I always take precautions to ensure something like that doesn’t happen again.
Historically, operating or riding in a military vehicle is the leading cause of on-duty serious injuries. Leaders, Soldiers and safety professionals should always integrate risk management into all the activities and missions they execute. Check out the Driver’s Training Toolbox, a web-based program and repository of drivers training resources for leaders, commanders, master drivers and instructors, at https://safety.army.mil/ON-DUTY/Drivers-Training-Toolbox (AKO login required) for more information.