FORT IRWIN, Calif. — On Oct. 14, National Training Center and Fort Irwin safety officials placed a white cross at the scene of a fatal, single vehicle accident site to memorialize the driver involved.
The white cross represents the 57th fatality on Fort Irwin Road or Old Fort Irwin Road since the first one occurred Aug. 16, 1981.
It also represents the first vehicle fatality to have occurred since Sept. 3, 2017, which is the longest span of time Fort Irwin had gone without a vehicular fatality since 1981.
According to Dave Key, the NTC safety director, three recurring factors in Fort Irwin Road fatalities are speed, alcohol, and fatigue.
Speed is the single biggest factor in vehicle-related deaths on Fort Irwin Road and approximately 52% of the fatal traffic accidents that occurred on Fort Irwin Road and Old Fort Irwin Road are attributed to speeding, said Key.
“Speeding is dangerous’ may seem like an obvious message, but the fact of the matter is speeding is a habitual driver behavior,” Key said. “Most drivers understand that speeding is dangerous; most still speed.”
The posted speed limit on Fort Irwin Road is 65 mph, while Old Fort Irwin Road’s speed limit is 55 mph.
“A 50-mile drive at 75 mph versus 65 mph only saves about six minutes,” said Key. “Is that worth getting a ticket, or worse, losing your life?”
The second most common factor in Fort Irwin Road fatalities is alcohol with approximately 20% of the driving fatalities on Fort Irwin Road involving alcohol, Key said.
Every day, approximately 32 people die due to drunk driving according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Statistics show that in 2020, 30% of all driving fatalities in the state of California involved alcohol.
The third most common factor in Fort Irwin Road fatalities is fatigue, Key said.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 6,400 people died annually in crashes involving drowsy driving.
The National Safety Council states that driving after going more than 20 hours without sleep is the equivalent of driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08%.
The National Training Center Safety Department recommends drivers heed the following tips below to help ensure their safety on the road:
- Always wear a seatbelt while driving. Eighty-three percent of vehicle occupants ejected from vehicles were killed. Seat belts are the single most effective safety device in preventing serious injuries and reducing fatalities in motor vehicle crashes. According to the NHTSA, more than 15,000 lives are saved each year due to seat belt use by drivers and passengers
- Check your vehicle. Check that brakes, windshield wipers, defroster, heater, and exhaust system are in top condition. Check tires for proper inflation. Temperatures below freezing can lower air pressure. Approximately 535 fatalities and 23,000 collisions per year are attributed to tire failure.
- Keep your gas tank full. It may be necessary to change routes or turn back during a storm. There is also an increased potential for traffic delays due to weather or accidents.
- Check the weather. Make checking the weather forecast and road conditions a part of your daily routine during the winter. Anything from extreme heat to high winds can have an adverse effect on your driving capabilities.
- Avoid driving at night. Nighttime conditions (midnight-6 a.m.) are the deadliest time to travel. Limit driving at night if possible and remember to take frequent rest breaks. Nationally, the deadliest three-hour period for traffic accidents was Saturday from midnight-3 a.m., followed by 6-9 p.m.
“It’s always a very sad moment heading out to memorialize these crash sites,” said Key. “I always try to learn as much about these mishaps as I can in hopes that it will prevent further fatality mishaps. Every time I put a cross up, I hope it’s the last one.”