RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
When talking and driving on Randolph Air Force Base, the rules are simple: use a speakerphone or earpiece.
Security forces are strictly enforcing Department of Defense regulations against driving on government installations while using non-hands-free cell phones, said Maj. Frank Hellstern, 12th Security Forces Squadron commander.
The major added that drivers stopped while doing so will be issued a DD Form 1408 - an Armed Forces Traffic Citation that could lead to a suspended license for base driving.
Security forces issued four citations last month to drivers using non-hands-free cell phones on base, a small number compared to the number of violators witnessed, he said.
"It's not enough," the major added.
Major Hellstern said he's driven around Randolph AFB in his personal vehicle and seen many drivers talking on non-hands-free cell phones while operating their vehicles. He's also driven around the base in security forces vehicles and has seen very few drivers doing so; suggesting that drivers tend not to do so when security forces are near.
In a perfect scenario, Major Hellstern said he'd like to see security forces patrol in unmarked vehicles to check for drivers using non-hands-free phones.
But writing tickets is not enforcement of rules as an end in itself, the major said.
Rather, it's keeping the base safe from drivers that are impairing themselves and endangering other drivers, pedestrians and government property, he explained.
"Your peripheral vision is lost and you don't have both hands on the wheel," he said, adding that the majority of Air Force injuries and fatalities are due to accidents happening to drivers operating privately-owned vehicles. "The key thing is safety. Other than it's the law, safety is the biggest underlying measure here."
Linda Howlett, 12th Flying Training Wing ground safety manager, said because of drivers multi-tasking -- specifically, trying to use non-hands-free cell phones - wing safety is seeing more mishaps and near-mishaps at the wheel.
"When you're involved in a conversation, you're not giving your full attention to driving," Ms. Howlett said.
Major Hellstern said the "Bluetooth"-type of hands-free cell phone earpieces are relatively inexpensive and allow drivers to move, drive and talk -- and don't restrict a driver's vision.
"You can't go wrong with that," Major Hellstern said.
The major also said drivers who don't have one of those and their cell phone rings while driving, let it go to voice mail, pull over onto the side of the road or into a parking lot, stop the car and then call back.
Don't risk endangering others and don't get tickets that could lead to suspended base driving privileges, he said.
"The last thing you want to do is to walk to work," Major Hellstern added.