By Staff Sgt. Matthew McGovern, 60th AMW Public Affairs
/ Published February 16, 2006
TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- With vehicle mishaps on the rise throughout the Air Mobility Command over the past few years, safety officials on Travis have begun using one phrase as their mantra for reducing on-base accidents, “Slow down and stay aware.”
The only thing going through the tardy airman’s mind is the letter of counseling that will greet him if he is late again. As he speeds, he reaches for his cell phone that has fallen to the floorboard of his car, oblivious of the stopped vehicle in front of him.
What happens next is an example of one of the many accidents that can be prevented by following a few simple rules and staying alert on the road.
Private motor vehicle mishaps have been on the rise in the last few years. According to safety officials, Air Mobility Command alone had 64 total mishaps in 2002. In 2003 that number rose to 85 and in 2004 it rose again to 101.
However, this trend can be reduced if motorists simply reduce their speed and increase their situational awareness.
Speeding is the leading cause of fatal motor vehicle collisions. The faster your vehicle is traveling, the more time and distance you need to turn, swerve or stop to avoid an accident.
The maximum speed motorists can legally drive is posted. However, a slower speed is necessary when weather is bad, traffic is heavy, road conditions are poor and when children or pedestrians are in the area.
“The faster you’re going, the more distance you need to have between you’re vehicle and the vehicle in front of you,” said Noel Fagan, 60th Air Mobility Wing safety manager.
One car length for every ten miles per hour is a basic rule, but it varies with other factors, according to Mr. Fagan.
“Vehicle weight, tire and break condition, and modifications are some of the factors that effect the stopping characteristics of the vehicle, ” he added. “Poor brakes will take you longer to stop, bald tires, over inflated tires and under-inflated tires affect the way your tires grip the road.”
Also, wet roads reduce stopping capability by 20 percent, worn tires reduce handling capability further and increase the risk of having an accident, said Mr. Fagan.
Maintaining vehicles with regular checkups, replacing wiper blades whenever they are worn, insuring brakes are inspected and tires are inflated properly can reduce the risk of an accident.
Added caution is needed in inclement weather; having vehicle headlights on will reduce unnecessary risk.
“If you see a car coming with its lights on, it’s easier to gauge its speed, also it’s easier to see the vehicle and be seen in fog and other low visibility weather” said Mr. Fagan.
Going into effect in March, California state law will require motorists to turn their headlights on when they are using their windshield wipers.
“This applies even when wipers are on minimum interval mode,” said Tech. Sgt. Charles Shaffer, a major accident investigator with the 60th Security Forces Squadron.
Along with using wiper blades, allow extra time to let vehicle windows fully defrost before driving in cold and wet weather.
Extra time is what many drivers do not give themselves and, unfortunately, is one of the most common causes for accidents.
“Slow down under speed limits for road conditions and driving ability,” said Sergeant Shaffer. “Remember the child you hit could be your own.”
“Motorists need to think about what they are doing when they get in their vehicle and drive as their actions can effect everyone around them,” said Mr. Fagan.
“If you have a mishap and get severely injured or killed it doesn’t just effect you. It effects your co-workers and your family,” Mr. Fagan added.