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101 critical days of summer: Distractions, unsafe vehicles can make for dangerous motoring

By Sean Bowlin | 12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs | July 27, 2009

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — Using cell phones for talking and texting while driving, plus driving vehicles with unsafe features, are major ways to be a danger on roads, said security forces officials this week. 

"Inattentive driving happens a lot during duty hours and can be just as dangerous to others as drunk driving, which occurs mainly at night," said Tech. Sgt. David Colon, 12th Security Forces Squadron integrated defense NCO-in-charge. "In fact, we've seen more accidents on base in the daytime due to people not paying attention to the road." 

The sergeant said while using non-hands-free cell phones behind the wheel is prohibited on all Defense Department installations, people on Randolph Air Force Base are multi-tasking by texting or talking on the devices while driving during working hours. That is a danger to other drivers and the many pedestrians, especially those at base crosswalks. 

"Pull over and stop if you have to answer a cell phone call," Sergeant Colon urged. 

"There are a lot of children on bikes and walking during duty hours because school is out." 

There are other ways to be unsafe in a car besides improper cell phone users, texters and drivers otherwise not focusing on the road they're on. 

Improperly inflated, bald or otherwise worn tires can cause blowouts and wrecks, unlatched hoods and trunks can flip up during high speeds, and worn-out window wiper blades are also dangers, he said. Drivers should ensure brakes are functioning and that there are no loose objects that could fly around and hit people. Put those items in the trunk of the car or use seatbelts to secure them - and heed recall notices for your vehicle. Always buckle a seat belt before starting the car, he said, and if transporting young children, ensure that their safety seats are properly installed. 

Sergeant Colon also explained it's important to carry emergency equipment in your vehicle. Cans of tire inflator, flares, a first aid kit and jumper cables make a good kit - and familiarize yourself with how to use the kit's items. 

Another important safety tip, the sergeant said, is don't depend on the accuracy of traffic lights. Check intersections before you cross them, even if the light is green. It's a danger to simply take for granted that other drivers know the rules of the road. 

"Drive defensively - don't assume you have the right of way. Look at other drivers and communicate with them," Sergeant Colon added. 

Rude and raging drivers are also causing trouble on the road. When you're cut off or else slowed down by an inattentive driver taking up space in the passing lane, that is not the time to get angry, he said. Breathe in and out deeply when that happens and let the driver go on. 

"Don't add fuel to the fire in a case like that," the sergeant urged. 

He added it was important to adhere to posted speed limits on the base, which are there to facilitate the smooth flow of traffic on the base - and to leave early for work so you're not compelled to speed. 

"You're not saving a whole lot of time by speeding," he said. 

Watching for lit brake lights on vehicles backing out of spaces in the many base parking lots helps to prevent fender-benders which occur most commonly in lots at the base exchange, the commissary and the Air Force Personnel Center. 

"Those parking lots are the biggest areas of hit and runs," said Sergeant Colon, adding that if another vehicle is struck and no one is in it, it's proper to leave a note with contact information on the windshield of the vehicle hit. 

Finally, when you see an unsafe driver on base, report it, without following the vehicle. Call in the vehicle's description, plate number and direction it's heading and street it's on, Sergeant Colon said. 

"That's one of the reasons we have 9-1-1," he added.