By Staff Sgt. Patrice Clarke
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
Close your eyes for three seconds. Though it doesn’t seem like a long time, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that’s the defined length of time to declare one distracted while driving.
A study released by the NHTSA and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute states that 80 percent of automobile accidents and 65 percent of near-accidents involved at least some form of driver distraction within three seconds of the crash or near-miss.
Many states have already cracked down on distracted driving, enforcing no cell phone use or no texting laws. Colorado aggressively attacked this issue; passing a law in 2009 prohibiting the use of wireless telephones for text messaging or other similar forms of manual data entry or transmission for drivers 18 and older. Younger drivers, 18 and under, or inexperienced drivers, are not allowed to use wireless telephones for any purpose while operating a vehicle.
Colorado drivers can get cited up to a $50 fine for the first offense and a $100 for all subsequent offenses.
These laws mirror some of the requirements for driving on base. Drivers on military bases have been required to use hands-free devices while driving for years now and although there are no fines administered the Air Force leaders have other forms of enforcement.
According to the Air Force Instruction the installation commander has the authority to suspend driving privileges on base for distracted driving or not wearing a seatbelt. Schriever drivers cited for not wearing a seatbelt or operating a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving could be given a warning or lose on-base driving privileges for up to 30 days. Subsequent offenses could lead to more suspended time.
On-base drivers already accumulate points for on-base driving traffic offenses. After 12 points are accrued, drivers could lose their on-base driving privileges for a year. With a seatbelt offense accruing four points and a cell phone violation accruing the same; it only takes three offenses to potentially lose on-base driving privileges.
“We know that distracted driving is dangerous and causes accidents,” said Col. Wayne Monteith, 50th Space Wing commander. “The fact that there are still people driving and texting or not wearing their seatbelts is unacceptable. Safety is our number one priority.”
According to Statistics, Schriever members have been doing well.
“We have had 12 drivers cited for not wearing a seatbelt and three drivers for talking on a cell phone while driving this year,” said Lt. Col. Michael Wulfestieg, 50th Space Wing Safety chief. “Considering more than 7,000 Team Schriever members drive on base, those numbers are not that high.”
Though the numbers aren’t high, one person cited is too many for wing leadership.
“The culture is changing on Schriever,” said Colonel Monteith. “We have housing and families on base now. All it takes is one distracted driver for a tragedy to occur and we are doing everything we can to prevent that.”
Information regarding the traffic and driving rules on base can be found in the 50th Space Wing Supplement to Air Force Instruction 31-204 at www.e-publishing.af.mil, search AFI31-204_50SWSUP.