Put your cell phone in the glove box
Maj. Gen. James M. Milano is Fort Jackson's commanding general.

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- I am hoping that it is clear to everyone what Fort Jackson’s policy is in regard to the use of cell phones when driving on post. If you are not tracking, it might end up costing you $75 (a $50 ticket and $25 processing fee) as well as some embarrassment if you are pulled over and ticketed by the Military Police.

The rules for cell phones, in general, forbid motorists from using a cell phone while driving on post, whether they are driving privately owned or government vehicles. The exceptions are using your cell phone coupled with a hands-free device or using the cell phone when the vehicle is safely parked. There are, of course, special exceptions for emergency responders.

I could go into detail and explain the specifics for electronic devices and so forth, but that’s not the purpose here. If you need more information or further clarification, I am sure our safety office or our Military Police would be more than willing to square you away and answer any questions you might have about our regulations.

My intent is to argue some common sense and hope that it helps you keep your head in the game when you are operating a motor vehicle. Motorists need to be fully engaged when driving. The more a driver is focused on the road and what’s going on around him or her, the better. Remember, there are no second chances after an accident has already occurred.

Research supports that motorists who are talking on the phone are four times more likely to become involved in an accident than drivers who are not on the phone. The risks for motorists who send text messages while they drive are at least double.

Let’s talk about texting for a minute, a growing cause of driver distraction on our nation’s highways. Texting is probably the most popular form of wireless communication. As you know, texting is strictly forbidden while operating a vehicle on post.

Texting from behind the wheel is as bad " if not worse " than driving while being alcohol-impaired. There was a recent study that showed that the reaction time of someone texting was slower than the reaction time of someone who was legally drunk.

Meanwhile, another study concluded that texting while driving could make the risk of crashing 23 times higher than the risk of a non-distracted driver becoming involved in an accident. Conclusions from studies, as you know, are always subject to debate, but in this case, the thing that’s indisputable is that texting is a distraction. That’s just plain common sense. It’s a given. If you are texting, then part of your attention is on your cell phone and not on driving.

Good discipline pays dividends when it comes to safety. Fort Jackson’s roadways are highly congested, not only with vehicles but we also have Soldiers marching, cyclists and pedestrians. Our drivers, whether military or civilian, need to set the standard.

Many experts hold the position that cell phones should be put away while driving. Turn the ringer off and put the cell in the glove box. The phone will be close enough in case there is an emergency, but it will be far enough away in case you were tempted to make a quick call.

Drivers would be wise to refrain from using their cell phones while driving, even where it is legal to do so and even when using hands-free equipment. All of us need to understand the risks and realize they are simply not worth taking. In the meantime, tough laws, strong enforcement and public awareness seem to be working in helping drivers come to that realization.

Understanding the situation should not be that difficult, however. It’s a matter of exercising good judgment after applying some common sense.

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Page last updated Thu July 28th, 2011 at 08:00