See and be seen when running - Stop, look and listen
Carrie Springer, librarian with the Muir S. Fairchild Research Information Center, is one of many runners on base who run along the designated running path on March Road. The safety office advises runners to heed safety warnings posted along the running route. Runners should be cautious about sharing the road with vehicles and wear reflective gear if running at or after dawn or dusk. (Air Force photo/Melanie Rodgers Cox)
See and be seen when running - Stop, look and listen

by Lt. Col. Geoffrey Gibbs
Chief of Safety

2/3/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Headphones can be hazardous to your health, not just in potential hearing loss but in an increased risk of incurring a fatal accident.

According to research by the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Medical Center, headphone-related serious injuries have more than tripled in just the last six years. Of 116 accident cases researched from 2004 to 2011 in which pedestrians were struck by trains or vehicles, 70 percent were fatal.

Even more telling, the report stated, "The increased incidence of accidents over the years closely corresponds to documented rising popularity of auditory technologies with headphones." At least a third of the accident reports indicated those affected couldn't hear the danger in time to avoid it.

In an effort to stem this trend, the Department of Defense and the Air Force have put greater restrictions on the use of headphones and electronic listening devices. Some will see this as an infringement on personal freedom. The reality could not be further from the truth.

The Air Force has invested extensively in physical fitness facilities, running tracks and equipment to afford individuals the opportunity to exercise and do so safely. At Maxwell and Gunter, several exercise locations are available away from traffic, where people who want to enjoy music while exercising can do so without fear of a traffic accident.

Those who feel the need to stretch their legs across roadways accept a level of personal and professional responsibility in ensuring their safety. Part of that is understanding and properly applying the rules of the road. The act of running on roadways or crossing roadways carries an inherently higher risk. As such, runners need to be fully alert to the environment and can't wear anything to distract them from doing so.

On a marked path, such as the painted running path along Maxwell's March Road, runners still need to be aware of our proximity to traffic and can only wear one ear bud or headphone. If in doubt, leave it out, and review the recently released 42nd Air Base Wing commander's "Guidance on Portable Electronic Listening Devices."

Running safely extends beyond knowing when not to wear headphones.

The Maxwell Safety Office regularly receives phone calls by concerned individuals who witness runners at dusk or in the dark with no reflective gear or runners who choose to disregard posted warning signs meant for their protection. Individually, people tend to justify such actions believing that since nothing negative has ever happened before, it won't happen in the future. This leads to complacency and greater risk potential.

Do the right thing. Do the safe thing. The life you save may be your own, and the alternative would impact far more people than you ever anticipated.