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NEWS | May 31, 2016

Distracted driving: Big consequences, easy fix

Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

One moment to change the radio station; one moment to check the GPS; one moment to send that text; one moment to crash.

According to a 2009 Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study, five seconds is the average amount of time a person’s eyes are taken off the road while texting. When traveling at 55 mph, five seconds is enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.

“While working I have seen many people come through the gate with their cell phones on their laps, friends being very rowdy in the backseat distracting the driver, music blaring as they come through the gate, even messing with their music source to change a song,” Senior Airman Samantha Ponton-McAfee, 902nd Security Forces Squadron entry controller, said. “I have seen people fumbling for their ID cards and swerving because they are focused on looking for their ID card instead of paying attention to their driving.”

Although texting and driving is the most alarming distraction because it requires visual, manual and cognitive attention, it is just one of many distractions the U.S. Department of Transportation lists as common. Other distractions include talking on the phone, eating or drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading, using a navigation system, watching videos and adjusting a radio, CD player or MP3 player.

Ponton-McAfee said the consequence for being pulled over for distracted driving incidents is an Armed Forces traffic ticket. This citation equals four points each. If enough points are accumulated, the violator can have their installation driving privileges suspended or revoked.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, the best way to end distracted driving is to educate all motorists about the danger it poses.

“Some tips to end distracted driving include waiting until later to talk or text, use an app to disable texting when driving or safely pull over to the side of the road if a phone call or text cannot wait,” Anthony Lightner, 502nd Air Base Wing safety and occupational health specialist, said.

In 2013, the National Safety Council estimated a minimum of 341,000 crashes resulted because of texting while driving. Due to this alarming number, among other statistics, a distracted driving campaign began last fall and concluded in January, Col. Dean W. Lee, Air Education and Training director of safety, said.

The campaign released several videos and linked Airmen to resources and statistics to inform them on the consequences of distracted driving in hopes to deter them from these dangerous habits.

The AETC Distracted Driving Campaign also encouraged people to go three weeks without using a phone while driving in order for it to become a habit. It also said to be a good passenger and speak out if the driver in a car is distracted and to encourage family and friends to drive phone-free.

“It’s working, because we haven’t had any known incidents of distracted driving – that’s in AETC,” Lee said. “Put your phone in your trunk, put it on silent or airplane mode while you drive, put it in the back seat, just put it down.”

For more information, visit http://www.distraction.gov or visit the Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Safety Office webpage at http://www.jbsa.mil/Resources/Safety.aspx.