Commentary: Share the road

Photo Illustration by DAVID PERRY
By Allan Woods
75th Air Base Wing safety manager
May 4, 2017

A near miss is an unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness or damage, but had the potential to do so. Only a fortunate break in the chain of events prevented an injury, fatality or damage.

At one time or another, we are all pedestrians. As pedestrians we hope the vehicle operators around us are paying attention while driving to help keep us safe as we utilize crosswalks. Knowing that we can all relate with crosswalks from a vehicle operator aspect or the pedestrian attempting to cross the road, we need to realize that we all need to work together to keep each other safe. 

In either situation, we should be making eye contact with the other person to show that we see them and respect their position. The vehicle operator should come to a full stop and wave to the pedestrian to cross and be patient while the pedestrian crosses the road safely. As a pedestrian we should never step into a roadway without the assurance that the operator sees them and is waiting for them to cross, even if you are in a crosswalk.

All too often, I see people walk out into a crosswalk and never bother to look up and see if anything is coming their way. They are so busy trying to stay in the lines; they are oblivious to the traffic around them. There is no guarantee of our safety when we are walking in a crosswalk. We need to pay full attention to our surrounding at all times. This would be a great example of a great time to practice Risk Management Techniques. 

Many of the near misses involving vehicle vs. pedestrians are caused by distracted drivers.

Please report all near misses which occur on base by clicking on the VPP Icon on your desktop or go to https://cs2.eis.af.mil/sites/21134/hillafb/default.aspx and click on “Report a Near Miss.” 

What is distracted driving? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating, drinking, looking after children, talking to the people in your vehicle, watching videos, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system, rubbernecking or reading—anything that takes your attention away from the task of driving safely. 

Texting is the worst of all. For example, sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. At 55 mph, that is like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. We cannot drive safely if we are not applying our full attention to the job at hand, which is driving.

According to NHTSA, during daylight hours, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving. That creates enormous potential for deaths and injuries on our roads. Teens were the largest group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes.

Teens can be the best messengers with their peers, so we encourage them to speak up when they see a friend driving while distracted, to have their friends sign a pledge to never drive distracted, to become involved in their local Students Against Destructive Decisions chapter, and to share messages on social media that remind their friends, family and neighbors not to make the deadly choice to drive distracted.

Parents first have to lead by example—by never driving distracted—as well as have a talk with their young driver about distraction and all of the responsibilities that come with driving. Have everyone in the family sign the pledge to commit to distraction-free driving. Remind your teen driver that in states with graduated driver licensing (GDL), a violation of distracted-driving laws could mean a delayed or suspended license. To find the pledge go to http://www.enddd.org/simple-steps-we-can-take-for-safer-driving/ and download.

Educators and employers can play a part, too. Spread the word at your school or workplace about the dangers of distracted driving. Ask your students to commit to distraction-free driving or set a company policy on distracted driving.

Distracted driving all too often creates a near miss situation for other vehicles sharing the road including smaller traffic like motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians.

Let’s all work together and share the road and save some lives!