Friday, November 09, 2012

It's your life, drive safely

by Airman 1st Class Kia Atkins
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

11/7/2012 - MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Police sirens sound in the night, ambulances rush to the hospital, the smell of burnt rubber fills the air and a car rests in a ditch. The driver thought they could handle the roads at any speed, but didn't account for the weather conditions. All these things could've been prevented had they just chosen to drive safely.

"I've never been in a crash, but I see it every day," said Tech. Sgt. Nathan Grier, 35th Security Forces Squadron police services. "As a traffic investigator, I see people getting pulled out of cars and how their lives went from them being happy, young and carefree with their whole lives ahead of them to being in a coma or crippled for the rest of their lives."

According to 35 SFS vehicle accident and driving under the influence statistics, the total of minor accidents this year to date is 288 compared with 274 to this point in calendar year 2011, with 36 major accidents this year compared to 41 last year.

"Speed is the most common contributing factor in accidents, the slower you go, the lower the possibility is that you're going to be in an accident," said Grier. "Sometimes people don't understand that when there is snow on the ground, you have to go a lot slower."

If you choose to go over the speed limit, you can be given a citation for reckless driving. If you get that citation, you better like to walk, because you could be doing it for up to two years. If your tour at Misawa ends before your driving suspension does, don't worry, it will follow you to your next duty station. Driving recklessly could also lead to you feeling a stripe or two lighter. If affecting your career isn't enough; it even affects the base's relationship with the Japanese community.

"The recent accidents that we've just had, myself and Maj. Leo Martin, 35 SFS commander, had to go and apologize to the Japanese National Police, but that was because no one else was injured," said Grier. "If these people injured someone else, for instance a Japanese National, the 35th Fighter Wing Commander, or depending on the severity of it, the United States Forces, Japan Commander would have to go and apologize to the Japanese community."

Not only does someone else have to apologize on your behalf, but stories about major accidents hit the Japanese media as well. When incidents involving reckless driving appear in local media, the impact of negative visibility increases and this could damage U.S. credibility with our host nation.

"When these big accidents hit Japanese news, they look at it like Americans don't know how to drive and that we could possibly kill someone," said Grier.

If while driving off base you get into an accident and you think you're in the clear because you haven't harmed anyone, you could be wrong. If your car hits a building, house or tree or if your car ends up on farm land or in someone's garden, you will be put on administrative hold and won't be allowed to leave Misawa until you can pay for the damages you have caused.

When driving recklessly, the consequences are high; someone's life could be on the line. So before assuming that you can handle the roads at any speed or in any condition, maybe you should think about who you could be hurting.

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