Safe driving should be ‘mostly common sense’
New signs indicating that cell phones are not to be used while driving unless they are hands-free have been added to various locations throughout the installation by DPS.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Motorists at Fort Rucker may have noticed a few new signs along the roadways in recent weeks reminding them to keep their cell phones “hands free.”

Directorate of Public Safety officials said that, even though the Fourth of July holiday is over, drivers on- and off-post should remain vigilant in driving safely. That means, always wearing a seatbelt, obeying the speed limits and keeping eyes off the cell phone and on the road.

“It’s mostly common sense stuff and personal responsibility,” said Lt. Col. Madeline Bondy, DPS provost marshal. “If you have to make or receive a phone call, it has to be done on a hands-free device or you have to pull over and park legally. Texting is out of the question while driving. It’s against state law and against Fort Rucker regulations.”

In 2009, 5,474 people were killed on U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Of those people killed in distracted-driving-related crashes, 995 involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction.

“Safety is very important and we have, not just our safety, but the safety of others when we’re behind the wheel of a car,” she said. “For individuals who have children in the car, whether as passengers or as one about to start learning to drive, it’s important to emulate good driving habits.”

Other possible causes of traffic incidents occur when drivers become impatient in congested traffic, something that can happen at various times of day on post, said Sgt. 1st Class Ocie Conner, DPS accident investigation noncommissioned officer in charge.

“There are several ‘busy’ times on post, especially when people are coming on or leaving in the mornings and afternoons,” he said. “These times can cause longer lines at the security gate, but those gate guards have a protocol they have to follow. A good rule of thumb is to plan ahead and leave early enough to avoid the long lines.”

Another issue Conner said people should avoid is driving too closely to another vehicle as it can lead to fender-benders or worse.

“People should keep at least one-and-a-half car lengths between their vehicle and the one in front of them,” he said. “That gives drivers enough reaction time to see brake lights and make the proper adjustment. We’ve found over the years that, any closer, drivers might not be able to stop in time and wind up hitting someone, causing injury to that person or to themselves.”

Peggy Contreras, DPS community police supervisor, said drivers in the housing areas need to be especially alert during this time of year as schools are still out and children are possibly playing in those parts of the installation.

“It’s important that drivers pay attention to what’s going on around them, and watch for people in the crosswalks or possibly crossing the streets,” she said. “Children are out for the summer and they’re going to be outside playing at different times of the day and evening. Drivers need to go slowly through those areas because you never know when a child might dart out in front of a car. For example, if a child is chasing a ball and that ball goes into the street, they might just keep chasing after it.”

Contreras added that during the last month of stormy weather, people should drive extra cautiously as downpours can make roads slick and stopping harder.

“If it’s raining, people should immediately slow down,” she said. “Windshield wipers and headlights should both be on during those times, even if it’s during the day time hours.”

Page last updated Wed July 13th, 2011 at 16:04