As first seen in GI Money magazine
Whether it’s you or a loved one behind the wheel of a car, drivers need to be as cautious and respectful as an active service member on duty. After all, a vehicle can cause the same amount of pain and destruction of life as a weapon!
Since 2009, the Federal government has banned texting while driving on government business, whether in a government or private vehicle, by all federal employees and members of the military. According to a 2003 study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, “driver distraction” has been estimated to be a contributing factor in 8 to 13 percent of all crashes. While many states have also banned texting while driving, the laws are often not enforced. Studies have also proven that the currently accepted panacea – headsets — is still a form of distracted driving that causes accidents. It’s only a matter of time when the emotional toll of too many lives lost will force local governments to crack down on this, too. In lieu of the long arm of the law, removing the source of distracted driving is something that you must have the self-discipline to do and to teach your loved ones the same values.
The City of Virginia Beach, Virginia – a heavily military populated city – gets specific on its website for its local government workers: “Driving distraction free means hands on the wheel and eyes on the road at all times. It also means avoiding the urge to eat or drink while driving, or other distracting behaviors like grooming. Texting and driving is one of the worst distractions for a driver.”
The Army devotes a part of its training website to the issue of distracted driving. “When a Soldier gets behind the wheel, driving must automatically become job one,” said Lt. Col. Scott Wile, driving director at the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center. “People who try to do anything other than safely guide their vehicle don’t have their priorities straight on the road. Phone calls, text messages and anything else that interferes with driving aren’t worth dying for — they can wait.”
It’s not enough for you to rigorously police yourself. Your spouse, your driving aged children, caretakers for your children: They all need to drive undistracted. Yes, you might have to have a slightly uncomfortable conversation with your child’s babysitter or even the neighbor down the street who shares carpool duties with you.
Imagine the personal and national consequences if a service member serving overseas gets notice from his commander that a loved one has been in a car accident. Whether the loved one is injured or killed, the service member now has something weighing on his mind – while he is tasked to defend our country. The FAA’s guidelines won’t even allow its pilots to fly under these circumstances: “Certain emotionally upsetting events, including . . . death of a family member, loss of job, and financial catastrophe, can render a pilot unable to fly an aircraft safely. The emotions of anger, depression, and anxiety from such events not only decrease alertness but also may lead to taking risks that border on self-destruction. Any pilot who experiences an emotionally upsetting event should not fly until satisfactorily recovered from it.” I am asking that our service members show the same leadership and bravery that they exercise on the battlefield to use it in a social situation –talking openly about distracted driving — that will save their lives and the lives of loved ones.