JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska --
Why is it when I drive around base or walk just about anywhere, I see many folks talking on their cellphone or texting while driving?
As I work in safety, I've been asked, "Why are so many people utilizing their cell phone while driving?"
I conducted an unscientific poll when I asked folks around the base if they have seen an increase in people using their cellphones while driving.
The results were not surprising, as most agreed with my observations. Throughout the base, personnel are on their phones.
You can see them -- phone in their hand against their ear, their head cocked to the side holding the phone between their ear and shoulder -- while they drive.
According to a Harvard University study, cellphones cause more than 200 deaths and half a million injuries each year.
I also noted the number of drivers doing the "drop and bob maneuver" (looking down at their phones and then back up to watch traffic) while driving. If this sounds like you, you're not fooling anyone. This creates unsafe conditions across the installation as drivers are distracted enough to cause injury or death.
The driving environment is changing as road conditions or vehicle movement ahead of you changes.
The two-car-lengths following distance you thought you had is now gone as someone changed lanes in front of you, and you haven't slowed down to compensate for the loss of space. With Old Man Winter upon us, it's only bound to get worse.
The odds are not good for distracted drivers, as we continue to lose daylight and road hazards only compound with distractions.
There are many people who walk across busy streets without reflective belts, making it even worse for drivers to see them, much less if the driver is distracted.
All drivers should know the rules and instructions for driving on base and the repercussions of not following them.
According to Air Force Instruction 91-207, Para. 3.2.1., vehicle operators shall give their full attention to the operation of the vehicle. All drivers must comply with applicable federal, state and local laws that are more stringent than this guidance regarding distractions while driving (e.g., using cellular phones, text messaging).
The definition of hands-free device operation/use is the use of a vehicle voice-activated system or cellular phone in speaker mode or with a hands-free attachment (headset or single bud earpiece) that allows vehicle operators to keep both hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road whenever the vehicle is in motion.
The wearing of any other portable headphones, earphones, or other listening devices, while operating a motor vehicle is prohibited.
Use of those devices impairs driving and masks or prevents recognition of emergency signals, alarms, announcements, the approach of vehicles and human speech.
There are serious penalties for violating these rules. Each base in Pacific Air Forces has policies in place for the use of cell phones while driving, and military members and their families should be familiar with these policies.
Bottom line: If you're driving, do that ... just drive. If you must use your phone, kindly pull over and handle your electronic business before proceeding. The life you save may be your own.