RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
The message for Team Randolph from Security Forces is clear: texting while driving is an accident waiting to happen.
Master Sgt. Monica Harris, 12th Security Forces Squadron NCO-in-charge of law enforcement, said a recent Executive Order issued by President Barack Obama compels Team Randolph Security Forces personnel to adopt a policy of zero tolerance toward misguided, multi-tasking TWD offenders. The Executive Order, signed Oct. 1, bans texting while driving a government vehicle, while driving a private vehicle on official business and while using electronic devices supplied by the government while driving.
"It's a real problem," she emphasized. "Your eyes are looking down, then you look up and your vision is impaired. There's no concentration on the road. Last week, a guy in front of me drove into a bollard while leaving the main gate, texting. Yesterday, I saw a woman smoking while applying makeup with one hand and switching hands, with one on the wheel, to text and talk on her cell phone. It's not uncommon to see as many as 20 drivers a day on and off-base TWD."
Sergeant Harris' civil service counterpart, Richard Coons, agreed. He said last month Team Randolph Security Forces personnel wrote 10 traffic tickets for TWD. Each conviction for using hand-held cell phones alone, while driving, slices three points from base driving privileges, which may be suspended upon accumulating 12 such points. TWD is a subset of that.
"Losing that many points mean someone could be walking to work while texting," Sergeant Harris said. "Nobody wants that."
Mr. Coons added TWD caused 16 percent of America's traffic fatalities in 2008, so the danger of colliding with another car while texting could be lurking around the next curve.
"In Arkansas, a young, inexperienced teenaged female driver was texting while driving and plowed into the back of an SUV carrying a mother and her two-year-old," he explained. "The baby had to have about two years' worth of cranial surgery. The mom was badly injured, too."
Mr. Coons went on to say 18 states have outlawed TWD, and the National Public Radio's website reported Nov. 18 that the nation's capital now also has a law banning sending or receiving text messages while driving. Six states and the District of Columbia prohibit all drivers from talking on hand-held cell phones; 21 states and D.C. bar novice drivers from all cell phone use. Proposed national legislation would reduce federal highway funds to states that fail to ban text messaging while driving, the website said.
The site also said the head of the National Transportation Safety Board has barred employee cell phone use in government vehicles. More than 500 companies across the nation have imposed similar total-ban policies, says the National Safety Council's Dave Teater.
"Texting while driving can kill you, and it at least numerically increases the possibility of you being in an accident," Mr. Coons emphasized. "You can get anywhere in San Antonio in about 20 minutes anyway, so why not wait, park and call? What's so important that a driver can't do that? Is a conversation worth a life?"
Sergeant Harris, who said signs are coming near Randolph's elementary, middle and high schools which warn drivers against hand-held cell phone usage in base school zones, added TWD rivals driving while intoxicated in accident potential.
For more vehicle safety tips and information, visit the NTSB Web site at www.ntsb.gov.