With the summer, naturally one will want to drive windows down, music up, and with carefree attitudes, but focus must be maintained while on the roads to prevent mishaps.
Of all preventable accidents that befall Sailors and civilians during the summer, driving fatalities far and away impact the most individuals and their families. Between the critical days of summer ranging from Memorial Day to Labor Day last year, 84 service members across all of the branches of the military died while on the roads. Motorcycle safety is of particular concern: 40 of those dead were riding motorcycles at the time of their accidents.
So the statistics are clear: what can be done to ensure that personnel are safer on the roads? According to Naval Support Activity Washington’s (NSAW) Safety Director Jim Peake, it starts with information.
“In order to help prevent traffic accidents, Sailors can learn as much as possible before they go,” said Peake. “Reviewing their routes, considering the impact certain behaviors can have on their driving safety, all of that is important.”
According to the Naval Safety Center, the behaviors that impact driver safety the most are fatigue, use of safety equipment, and alcohol impairment. One should never plan a trip if they will not have time to properly be rested, always wear a seatbelt, and never consider drinking and driving. Personnel are also recommended to stop every two hours of driving for at least 15 minutes, travel during the daylight hours where hazards are more easily spotted if at all possible, and never be distracted by use of a cell phone or other device when driving.
“We know that seat belts save lives,” said Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in a printed address to service members in May. “Many of the injuries and fatalities sustained by our servicemen and women could have been prevented with the use of a seatbelt.”
Members of the Department of Defense community have a unique tool at their disposal when it comes to learning more about the possible perils and pitfalls of the highway: The Travel Risk Planning System, also known as TRiPS. TRiPS is an online tool that accomplishes many objectives: it informs one of the possible risks that may come about depending on how one is planning to travel, informs a supervisor of plans, and even fills in some of the information on a service member’s leave slip for them.
Use of TRiPS prior to liberty or temporary duty assignment that involves a road trip is required by many commands, and is useful for those for which it is not: over 183,000 TRiPS assessments have been conducted by Navy personnel and not one of those approved journeys resulted in a fatality.
TRiPS, which is accessed through Navy Knowledge Online (www.nko.navy.mil), begins by asking a user a series of questions about their proposed travel plans, including the type of vehicle that will be driven, the to-and-from locations, what time of day one plans to do their driving, and if they will be participating in any activities before or during their trip that might be risky.
The automated system then computes all of this information into a ‘Risk Assessment Matrix,’ with risk ranges at Low, Moderate, High, or Extremely High. Given certain responses to the inquiries, it combines the likelihood that a hazard to mission capabilities will occur with the severity of that hazard.
After one is given their Risk Assessment, they are then given a series of information about how they might lower their risk by modifying their behavior or by changing the nature of their trip. Finally, the system takes all this information and provides it to that person’s supervisor who they designated when they started using TRiPS and provides a printout of the assessment.
With the right information and just a little more effort, it may be possible to reduce the 24 Navy and Marine fatalities that occurred on the roads last summer to zero.
For more information about driving, road trip and motorcycle safety, visit the Naval Safety Center at http://safetycenter.navy.mil/.