Vehicle safety during the critical days of summer

Vehicle safety during the critical days of summer

We have now entered the critical days of summer, which means during this time frame from Memorial Day through Labor Day, the Air Force and the State of Utah experiences a very high number of fatalities. The majority of these fatalities are vehicle-related and could be avoided.

We have been seeing more vehicles on the road as the warmer weather moves in. We are also seeing more summer-related vehicles on the roads. This means we need to adjust our search pattern as we drive, to include motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians running or crossing the road. 

We all need to make it a priority to take a second look before we change lanes, pull out of a driveway into the street or make any left turn, to look specifically for motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians. They have the same rights to utilize the roadways as vehicles do. They are simply far more vulnerable to be killed if they encounter a vehicle. 

As a motorcycle rider, I can’t tell you how important it is to share the road. The roadway can be an extremely scary place at times as we are operating smaller vehicles side-by-side full-sized vehicles.

According to the Air Force Stake Holders Report for FY 2015, the Air Force experienced 11 vehicle-related fatalities. I understand these numbers include the entire Air Force. However, this number should be much closer to zero when it comes to vehicle-related fatalities.

According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, as of May 23, Utah had 89 vehicle-related fatalities reported, with nine involving motorcycles. This number is way too high, in my opinion. We all need to work together and drive safely and defensively each time we get behind the wheel.

Let’s consider a few tips for driving safely.

First, we need to buckle up! We all know it is the law, both on and off base. I can think of a more important reason for buckling up every time we drive: We have all seen how other people drive. Need I say more? Why would anyone take a chance with their life, or the lives of loved ones in the vehicle with them and not enforce seat belt usage?

Never get behind the wheel if you are unable to keep your mind on the job at hand, which is driving the vehicle safely. To be a safe vehicle operator, it is paramount that we put our full attention into all aspects of vehicle operations and your surroundings at all times. There are far too many things to deal with, like road hazards in need of quick identification to avoid on the fly. 

There are other vehicles sharing the road that we need to pay very close attention to. We never know if the other drivers are distracted and may be angry or sad about something, or eating, putting on makeup, talking on the phone — or my biggest nightmare, texting rather than driving. 

I have heard of people texting and driving however; if you are texting, you are certainly not driving. It is not possible to fully pay attention to all of the aspects of operating a vehicle while composing a text message. In reality, you are behind the wheel of a vehicle, which can easily become a killing machine, on autopilot without a pilot. 

Evidently, these people have not yet realized their phone will actually take a message. Believe it or not, it will save multiple messages for them and keep them until the vehicle is safely parked. What a concept! 

Can you imagine how many accidents could be avoided if everyone would simply turn off the volume to the cellphone before they start the vehicle, and then check it when they have reached their destination? It makes me wonder how many accidents were caused by distracted drivers when they weren’t aware they were involved. Probably far more that we would care to know.

While operating any type of vehicle during these critical days of summer, please focus on defensive driving, buckle up, focus on being a safe driver and, most important of all, share the road.

Those lucky vehicle operators who choose to ride motorcycles, ATVs, UTVs and bicycles should slow down, ride safe and always wear the appropriate PPE for the situation. It very well may save your life.

Let’s all be safe this summer.

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