By Halle Thornton
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — In December 2012, former President Barack Obama designated December as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, impaired driving is driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving, and can increase the chance of a motor vehicle crash.
There are three main types of distraction:
Visual — taking your eyes off the road.
Manual — taking your hands off the wheel.
Cognitive — taking your mind off driving.
Drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher are considered alcohol-impaired by law, and Staff Sgt. Robert Cook, 50th Space Wing Safety Office noncommissioned officer in charge of occupational safety, reminded Schriever Airmen there are various avenues to ensure safe transportation.
“Before getting into a vehicle with someone who is intoxicated or if you are intoxicated yourself, you should call your supervisor, First Sergeant, Airmen Against Drunk Driving, or a taxi cab,” he said. “There should be no reason to get behind the wheel of a vehicle if you’ve been drinking.”
About one in three traffic deaths in the United States involve a drunk driver, and Cook emphasized if drinking is involved, Airmen should have a primary and backup plan.
Cook added Airmen should be aware of their surroundings and on the lookout for early warning signs of someone who may get behind the wheel while intoxicated.
“They need to be honest with the people around them,” he said. “If they see someone driving erratically, notify the police immediately. Be a defensive driver at all times and be aware of what the other people are doing around you.”
Thanks to dedicated efforts, rates of drunk driving and alcohol-involved fatal crashes have gone down in recent years, however, drunk drivers still got behind the wheel millions of times in 2010 according to the CDC.
“If you know someone has been drinking, don’t be afraid of being made fun of, your life is worth more,” Cook said.
For people under 21, zero tolerance laws make it illegal to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in their system.
These laws, along with laws that maintain the minimum legal drinking age at 21, are in place in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and have had an affect on highway safety, saving tens of thousands of lives since their implementation.
Each day in the United States, approximately nine people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.
“With the potential for severe weather approaching, the potential for vehicle mishaps increase, don’t add to the problem by being distracted or drunk behind the wheel,” Cook said.
Distracted driving activities include anything that takes your attention away from driving, including sending a text message, talking on a cell phone, using a navigation system and eating while driving. Any of these can endanger the driver and others.
Texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distraction.
Sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for about five seconds, long enough to cover a football field while driving at 55 miles per hour.
As of June 2017, 14 states and the District of Columbia banned drivers from hand-held phone use, and texting while driving is banned in 46 states and the District of Columbia.
“Airmen can turn their cell phones off or switch them to do not disturb while driving to ensure they are not distracted,” Cook said.
Cook reminds all Airmen to be smart and think about others.
“When you decide to put yourself in an unsafe situation, it affects more than just you,” he said. “You may drastically affect someone else’s life.”