Tips for safe holiday travels

by Kimberly L. Wright
Air University Public Affairs

12/3/2010 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, GUNTER ANNEX, Ala. -- Maxwell Air Force Base, Gunter Annex and Air Education and Training Command have had a banner year for safety. Officials want base personnel to keep up the good work by staying safe behind the wheel.

"Keep up the work, commanders and supervisors," said Mark Garner, the 42nd Air Base Wing's ground safety manager. "Keep reiterating private motor vehicle safety to subordinates. Everybody protect each other out there."

For the first year ever, AETC personnel have gone a year without an off-duty fatality, including a fatality-free 101 Days of Summer, he noted.

Maxwell has also gone a full year without fatalities, with the two deaths this year - a tractor accident and a private vehicle crash -- among tenant organizations that aren't tallied among AETC assets.

Still, Mr. Garner doesn't want base personnel to rest on their laurels. Private motor vehicles are the "No. 1 fatality-producing agent," he emphasized. A big part of AETC's eight-week winter safety campaign focuses on vehicular dangers such as alcohol, distracted driving, fatigue and speed - the top four factors involved in vehicular fatalities.

"The goal here for this campaign is to raise awareness -- slow down and put the cell phone down," he said. A life-altering mishap can be caused by something "as simple as rear-ending someone."

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving contributes to vehicle accidents that kill more than 16 people and injure more than 1,300 people daily.

Distractions include using a cell phone, texting, eating, drinking, using in-vehicle technologies such as navigation systems and talking with passengers.

"While any of these distractions can endanger the driver and others, texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distraction," visual, manual and cognitive, the administration noted.

Airmen are also encouraged not to mix alcohol and driving.

Nationwide, 32 people die every day in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver, according to the administration.

For those making the trek north by auto over the holiday season, be mindful of the challenging winter weather conditions that may hinder the journey.

"Make sure the car is prepped for the trip and that you are prepped" with enough sleep and adequate breaks during the journey, said Mr. Garner. Pack cold-weather survival gear such as blankets and an emergency radio in case you become stranded in the cold.

"If your car is not ready, if you have bald tires, you'll have problems," he said.
Don't travel more than eight hours per day, and don't rely on energy drinks to revive a fatigued driver.

"It gives you a kind of a high. ... You also have a quick crash. It's an immediate crash, and it's just like dozing off," he noted.

Airmen under age 26 are required to fill out the AETC form 29-B if they plan on taking long trips.

"That gives the supervisor the notification," allowing them to advise the younger servicemembers on things like adequate rest and breaks, he said.

Another program called TRIPS, or Travel Risk Planning System, "incorporates risk management and dialogue between the supervisor and employees," said Mr. Garner.

Travelers can load their travel information, and the system sends email to the supervisor. This can be accessed from the Air Force safety center website.