By Airman 1st Class William Tracy
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — With the weather warming up, Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, safety personnel advise all Airmen to practice traffic safety.
“When it comes to traffic safety in spring and summer, people can be lulled by a false sense of security coming out of the winter months,” said Master Sgt. Michael Hawkins, occupational safety manager with the 50th Space Wing Safety office. “In reality, you must always have caution. Don’t let your guard down as the months get warmer.”
Hawkins said Schriever AFB’s main artery connecting it to the outside community and Colorado Springs, Highway 94, is an example of why it’s important to be an alert and defensive driver.
Highway 94 has had its share of accidents, two last summer resulting in fatalities and another over a month ago causing serious injuries. Areas of concern include misused broken yellow lines and improper use of passing lanes in general.
“Highway 94 has designated passing lanes which are put in place to discourage people from trying to pass over the solid yellow line,” Hawkins said. “If you are passing, you must make sure it is safe before you pass. If the person you are passing is going under the speed limit, then it’s legal, however, if they are going at or near the speed limit, you are breaking the law.”
“Additionally, if you pass, you have to be able to pass and get back into the proper lane before the line becomes solid,” he added.
He explained with the high speed limit on Highway 94, as well as the drop in speed going on Curtis Road from Falcon Highway, speeding is another major factor which increases the risk of accidents.
Hawkins, who has had to report to accidents as part of his job, can testify to the devastating potency speeding adds to a crash and why it’s important to follow speed limits.
“I’ve seen what happens and the devastation that takes place,” he said. “When you have an accident, there are three parts to the collision – when the actual vehicle hits an object, when your body collides in the vehicle and, the third and most dangerous part, what happens inside your body in reaction. When I investigated high-speed accidents, you can see how this effect on your internal organs can kill instantaneously.”
However, it is not just Highway 94 or other routes leading to Schriever AFB where accidents occur.
Throughout Colorado, and the rest of the U.S., as the temperatures increase, so does the risk factor associated with driving.
According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Science’s publication, Environmental Health Perspectives journal, numerous experimental studies across various countries have shown a decrease in driving performance amongst the general populace at high temperatures.
One of the studies observed motor vehicle crashes which occurred in Catalonia, Spain, during the warm periods of the years 2000 – 2011. It found that of the 118,489 motor vehicles crashes during this period, the estimated risk of crashes increased 2.9 percent during heat wave days. For every 33.8 degrees Fahrenheit increase in maximum temperature, the risk increased by 1.1 percent.
At Schriever AFB, security forces Airmen such as Staff Sgt. Asia Mekoleske, noncommissioned officer in charge of reports and analysis with the 50th Security Forces Squadron, continue to play a vital role in keeping the base populace safe into the warmer seasons.
She said part of making Schriever AFB a safer environment is for Airmen to obey all base traffic safety laws.
“Things to remember is to pay attention to the rules and understand how roundabouts work, as well as pay attention to speed limits,” Mekoleske said. “For example, some people speed around the gates. Those speed limits are there for security procedures and for the protection of gate personnel.”
In line with May being Motorcycle Safety Month, traffic safety applies to other modes of transportation as well. On Schriever AFB, proper safety gear must be worn when operating motorcycles and bicycles. For motorcyclists, you must be licensed and have completed initial motorcycle safety training and/or be updated on refresher training.
“Ensure you are wearing all of your safety protective gear, such as helmets, boots, long sleeve shirts and pants,” Mekoleske said.
While it may seem this year’s snow and ice slick roads are coming to an end, improper and dangerous driving is year-round and claims thousands of lives.
Although Hawkins and others work hard to ensure everyone’s safety, he said it’s important the individual does so as well.
“When we go back into the warmer months, a lot of the caution people internalized during the winter goes away,” Hawkins said. “This is detrimental, you need to be a defensive driver all year.”