Fort Bliss, TX (US Army) — Summer is here, and hundreds of Fort Bliss Soldiers, family members and civilians head to the roadways on extended holiday leave to enjoy down time. With the increased level of activity and commute, accidents are more likely to happen. Often times, people are too busy on the go or having too much fun, to consider risks. It is important to prepare and evaluate your summertime travel to avoid becoming a statistic.
The Army Summer Safety Campaign runs from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. This year, the Army is dedicated to increase awareness and prevention by focusing on four key areas: civilian injury prevention, ground operations, aviation operations and off-duty driving.
“Historically, the Army experiences most of their off-duty accidental losses during the summer months. Leaders and Soldiers need to have an increased sense of awareness during this high risk period,” said Jose Moreno, deputy safety director of 1st Armored Division.
For those going on summer road trips or just down the street to the grocery store, risk is still present. Using seatbelts is the number one way in preventing accidental death.
According to Moreno, the top two leading causes of accidental fatalities for Fort Bliss Soldiers are privately owned vehicles and privately owned motorcycles.
As of June 5, Fort Bliss has experienced three accidental fatalities: one POV, one POM and one Army motor vehicle. Initial investigation indicates speed, and failure to use restraints and seatbelts, were causal factors.
The Army motor vehicle accidental fatality was the first on-duty accidental fatality to occur at Fort Bliss in more than 13 years.
In fiscal year 2012, Fort Bliss experienced twelve accidental fatalities: five POV, four POM and 3 personnel injuries.
Sobriety is another effective way to prevent vehicular accidents. Never drink and drive. Plan to have a designated driver. If you do not have a designated driver and you are in the local area, No D.U.I. El Paso provides designated drivers for free. They will also transport your vehicle that night as well. Their services are available Friday and Saturday from 11 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. To learn more, call (877) 366-7604.
Distracted driving is a growing epidemic. According to the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center website, “The number of people dying in crashes involving a distracted driver is on the rise: 3,331 in 2011 compared to 3,267 in 2010.”
Texting, eating, or using a navigation system distracts the driver from the road and increases the risk of an accident. The National Safety Council reports, “Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds; the equivalent, at 55 mph, of driving the length of an entire football field, blind.”
“Take out your cell phone and look at the last text you sent. Would that text be worth dying for?” said Moreno. “Definitely not.”
To help reduce the number of people injured or killed in POV collisions, passengers need to take an active role in safe driving. They can assist the driver by being an extra set of eyes and ears to observe their surroundings, watch out for pedestrians and debris, and fellow motorists.
Marcos Castaneda, GSA fleet manager for the Directorate of Mobilization and Deployment, issues about 280 vehicles a month to National Guard and Reserve units mobilizing and demobilizing through Fort Bliss. These Soldiers commute from main Fort Bliss to McGregor Range, N.M., daily to conduct training at all hours. Before issuing a vehicle, Castaneda briefs Soldiers on speed limits on and off post and not using their cell phones. Castaneda says the most common factor for accidents is distracted driving.
When driving long distances, Castaneda recommends performing a safety inspection on your vehicle.
“Always make sure your gas is topped off, all your lights and wipers work, tires are properly inflated and your mirrors are not cracked. Under the hood, check your oil levels and make sure your battery works and your serpentine belt is not cracked,” said Castaneda.
To provide awareness and visibility, fatality safety signs are posted at various exit gates at Fort Bliss. The signs electronically count up the number of days since a preventable death occurred at Fort Bliss. The counter is reset to zero on the day of the fatality, and the light remains red for three days. After the third day, the green light is turned on until the next fatality occurs. The counter adds the number of days since the last preventable death. For every one hundred days since the last preventable death, a recommendation to the commanding general is made to allow units a day of no scheduled activity.
Fort Bliss leadership holds a monthly community health promotion council meeting to highlight safety concerns across the units so leaders can integrate control measures and policies to prevent future incidents.
The “No Preventable Death Campaign” continues across Fort Bliss. Leaders, Soldiers and family members are encouraged to assess their daily activities and ensure safety is the number one priority, especially during the high risk summer months.