You Bet Your Life
CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER 4 JEFFERY DANITZ
479th Field Artillery Brigade
Fort Sill, Oklahoma
Would you go to Las Vegas and bet your life on one spin of the roulette wheel? I hope not! You’d probably question the intelligence of anyone willing to make such a gamble. Yet, many of our Soldiers bet their lives every day when they don’t use their seat belts or restraints in tactical vehicles. Why is this happening?
I heard all of the familiar excuses while working as a safety adviser to the Combined Joint Task Force-7 command staff in Iraq: “The seat belt keeps me from getting out of the vehicle quickly.” “It restricts me from turning sideways in the seat.” This one really scared me — “I was told not to use it.”
Aside from a commander telling them to not use seat belts, why would Soldiers make an independent decision to not buckle up in combat? People make decisions based on their perception of the likelihood an event will occur. Roadside bombings and ambushes are common in combat, so it’s natural Soldiers will do everything possible — including not wearing seat belts — to “protect” themselves during these events.
Perception of occurrence is influenced by perception of control, and this factor plays into Soldiers’ decision-making processes, including seat belt usage. When someone thinks they’re in control, they believe they’re less likely to have an accident. However, we can’t control the enemy and can’t predict with any certainty when they’ll strike. Thus, Soldiers perceive the occurrence of an attack as being highly likely to occur because of their lack of control.
This skewed perception can get Soldiers in trouble. Some Soldiers believe they’re more likely to die because they can’t get out of a vehicle quickly during an ambush or bombing. In their minds, the risk of injury or death in a rollover or other accident is secondary. It makes sense to them to not wear seat belts in combat. This logic is flawed. Plus, Army regulations say seat belts must be worn at all times — even in combat.
An intelligent person learns from their own mistakes, but a wise individual learns from the mistakes of others. I hope you’ll make sound decisions and carry out safe operating procedures every time you begin a mission. Remember, the probability of you making it home safely is much greater if you wear your seat belt. Your family deserves it and the Army will thank you for it.