According to the national highway traffic safety administration, sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent-at 55 mph-of driving the length of an entire football field, blind. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Airman 1st Class William Blankenship)

by Airman 1st Class William J. Blankenship
Air University Public Affairs

4/23/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. - -- Security and base safety officials remind drivers to take note of the "no cell phones while driving" signs at the base gates.

Posted at all entrances to "the best hometown in the Air Force," the message on the signs is not merely a suggestion, but the law. Approximately 800 Maxwell drivers have received citations this year because they did not pay attention to the signs, according to security forces officials.

Like all other Air Force installations, Maxwell prohibits drivers from using cell phones unless while parked or using a hands-free device, according to the Air Force instruction that covers base traffic safety programs, AFI 91-207.

"Texting while driving has been a problem for the last five years I have been a security forces member," said Senior Airman Christopher Stitcher, 42nd Security Forces Squadron. "On Maxwell and Gunter, we pull over almost 30 people a week."

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent of driving the length of a football field at 55 mph, blind.

"Think about coming in the Maxwell Boulevard gate and then taking your eyes off the road to text someone and the danger that presents," said Stitcher. "At that speed, you will have driven by a school crossing, post office, two housing areas and the child development center."

Violators caught texting while driving on Maxwell could receive a verbal warning, a citation or lose their on-base driving privileges.

"This is such a small community and there are children everywhere. Some may be deaf, some blind and a kid can run out at any second," said Stitcher. "The kids and pedestrians that use that stretch of sidewalk could all be killed, all because you have a text from your buddy."

Whether in the military, a family member, a civilian employee or someone visiting on official business, the rule stands for all vehicle operators on base.

"Occasionally, civilians come on base who are unfamiliar with the rules, despite the posted signs outside the gate," said Senior Airman Laquan Conner, 42nd SFS. "Regardless, it's the law in Alabama even outside the gate."

According to officials, service members should be aware that they are the sponsors for the drivers in their families; therefore, they will be the ones affected by the citation.

"Family members are the responsibility of military members," said Master Sgt. Patrick Acre, 42nd Security Forces Squadron first sergeant. "Their actions are your actions as an Airman. You can expect a phone call from your first sergeant if this were to happen."

The safety of Airmen and their families is a top priority for Col. Trent Edwards, 42nd Air Base Wing commander.

"Texting while driving on base is illegal and dangerous," he said. "We are a family community with an elementary and middle school on the base, children who actively participate in after school youth programs and adults and children who enjoy riding bikes, walking dogs and exercising around the base. Our Maxwell and Gunter family deserves a safe and secure environment to work and play, and people who text and drive compromise the safety of our community."

The wing commander added that he expects all on-base drivers to devote 100 percent of their attention to driving the speed limit and following all traffic laws, advising people that if they have to text or call, then they should pull over safely before texting or placing the call.