Recent statistics show there has been an abrupt increase in Airmen involved in motor vehicle accidents since May. To curb this rise in accidents, Ben Bruce, 56th Fighter Wing Ground Safety manager, is working to change people’s perception of vehicle safety.
“What I want to do is make safety more personal,” he said. “I want to stop talking about the issue and make it meaningful.”
Bruce’s plan to make safety a more personal issue starts with increasing awareness of the hazards associated with motor vehicles.
“One of the things we have to be able to do is connect you to the possible outcomes of behavior and the result,” he said.
To do this, Bruce plans to get the message to Airmen by using the chain of command.
“The target audience I’m trying to reach, the population that is in jeopardy, is the 26 year-old and younger group,” Bruce said.
He plans to stress the issue of motor vehicle safety this summer through commander’s calls, supervision, roll calls, production meetings and the base paper.
“The main thing we need to do is raise the alarm and say, ‘we have already had some bad things happen in our command and our Air Force, and we need to address the issues especially in the area of motor vehicle operations, whether it’s two wheels or four wheels,’” he said.
According to the Air Force Safety Center, private motor vehicle mishaps are falling, however, they continue to be the No. 1 cause of fatalities in the Air Force during the summer. The Air Force lost nine Airmen to motorcycle mishaps during the Critical Days of Summer months last year. In March, a Luke Airman was fatally injured in a motorcycle accident.
“The biggest risk that we face right now for the next two months is motorcycle safety,” Bruce said. “In 75 percent of the accidents involving motorcycles, the injury involved some kind of poor judgment such as not wearing a helmet, excessive speed, use of alcohol and doing wheelies.”
Most people know the safety rules and have heard them many times briefed at commander calls, roll calls and production meetings, but accidents still continue to happen, Bruce said.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that driver distraction, driver fatigue, drunk driving, aggressive driving and weather conditions are the top five causes of motor vehicle-related mishaps. However, the overall greatest threat to drivers is themselves.
For Bruce this trend comes down to questioning your personal risk meter and drivers believing they’re invincible to motor vehicle mishaps.
“The main questions are what does risk mean to you and why do you put yourself in danger?” Bruce said. “The answer is probably because people don’t think anything bad is going to happen.”
Allison Brown, 56th FW Ground Safety superintendent, would like all Airmen to accept personal responsibility for their safety by practicing good judgment.
“We can give training all day long, but we can’t force people to make good decisions,” she said. “The majority of motor vehicle incidents are caused by some kind of poor judgment that can be prevented if people would take a few minutes and use a little bit of risk assessment.”