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Distracted driving, speeding kill

Gate barrier systems are raised at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016. Schriever drivers are reminded to practice safe driving on and off base, and to be vigilant when crossing the barrier areas. (U.S. Air Force photo/1st Lt. Darren Domingo)

Gate barrier systems are raised at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016. Schriever drivers are reminded to practice safe driving on and off base, and to be vigilant when crossing the barrier areas. (U.S. Air Force photo/1st Lt. Darren Domingo)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

Driving is the most important thing people do behind the wheel of an automobile.

Casual observation highlights it’s not all people do behind the wheel—some eat, check-in with friends and family, while others even catch up on their favorite author’s latest novel.  While this may seem like multitasking at its best, it really is just distracted driving.  Distracted driving pulls the driver’s attention away from the road, where it should be solely focused.

The Schriever streets can lead some to think it’s OK to perform this multitasking technique on base; however, recent events proved otherwise.  One key reason is Schriever has barriers that pop up in support of base defense operations.  If one is distracted and/or speeding, they may notice all too late they need to stop, resulting in damage to their vehicle.

“A gate sentry may activate the barrier system based on the perceived threat of a vehicle bypassing entry procedures at a high rate of speed and must quickly react to stop the threat from accessing the installation,” said Master Sgt. Paul Gingras, 50th Security Forces Squadron Operations chief.

The barrier systems have built-in safety features to alert drivers when they are activated. Once they are activated, if internal sensors do not detect the presence of a vehicle, the lights will transition from blinking to solid yellow, then red and at that point in the cycle, the barriers will raise. The process takes a few seconds to allow drivers the opportunity to react.

“Any distractors decreases a driver’s opportunity to react and successfully avoid an accident or mishap,” Gingras added.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration named distracted driving as the 3rd major cause of injuries and deaths in motor-vehicle crashes.  “In 2012, 3,328 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver,” according to the Accident Data Center site.  The site also said people talking on a cell phone or sending text messages cause one out of every four traffic accidents. 

Additionally, drivers need to obey posted speed limits.  On base the speed limit ranges from 15-35 mph depending on the area.  These limits are not arbitrary, they are established based on the activities in the area.  For example, in the housing area where children might be playing, oblivious to roadways or the cars on them, the speed limit is 15 mph.  On straight paths, with limited pedestrian traffic, the speed limit raises to 40 mph.

“My Defenders have been instructed to ticket speeders and aggressive drivers with the goal of changing their behaviors,” said Maj. Michael Speck, 50 SFS commander.  “If behaviors don’t change then those tickets are the basis for building a package for Col. (DeAnna) Burt (50th Space Wing commander) to remove their on-base driving privileges.” 

Once members depart Schriever, the same lessons hold true.  Speeding and distracted driving have played a role in Highway 94 accidents, as has aggressive driving.

“For off base violators, we do not have the authority as a military law enforcement agency to enforce civilian law (i.e., issue tickets); however, when we receive reports of aggressive driving off base, we can and will track down the violator when we are provided the vehicle description and plate number,” Speck said.  “In my commander role, I share this information with my fellow commanders so they can take appropriate command action.  Some of our military, government service and civilian contract employees may believe their actions off base will not affect their on base employment; however, that belief is false . . . a commander’s reach and influence extends beyond the base boundary.”

Defenders and commanders are taking driving seriously and encourage everyone to as well so the roads can be safer for everyone.

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