By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterApril 25, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (April 25, 2013) -- As temperatures rise, more people are hitting the outdoors, increasing the potential for encounters with distracted drivers, but Fort Rucker's Directorate of Public Safety wants to make sure motorists and pedestrians are safe while on the installation.
When most people think of distracted driving, most think about using cell phones and texting while driving, but Peggy Contreras, Fort Rucker Community Police supervisor, said a host of other things qualify as distracted driving.
"There are many things that some people don't consider to be distracted driving," she said. "Fooling with the radio or [global positioning satellite device], driving down the road and putting on makeup or fooling with the mirror, or even eating on the run are all considered distracted driving."
Distracted driving is anything that takes the driver's attention away from his or her responsibilities to properly operate a vehicle, according to Contreras. Falling prey to any of these distractions while operating a motor vehicle can lead to dire consequences, including death.
Other examples of distracted driving include loud music, driving with earphones in, talking on the phone, texting and even having a conversation with other people in the car.
"A lot of people don't realize how distracting having a conversation with someone in the car or even with someone through a hands-free device can be," said the community police supervisor. People get really engrossed in their conversation and almost forget about what they are doing, she added.
"That split second that it takes to have an accident can change your life and possibly somebody else's life, and it's not something that we can take back once it's done," she said. "It's not something that I would want on my hands, and I'd imagine that other people don't want it on theirs."
With the warmer weather also come motorcyclists, who require extra awareness and responsibilities from their four-wheeled counterparts, said Contreras, so people need to use extra caution while on the road during the summer months.
Contreras said prevention is the key to combating distracted driving and offered some advice on how to avoid some situations where a driver my get distracted.
"Before going on a trip, make sure to set the radio and GPS up before you drive off and don't mess with them while you're driving," she said, adding that people shouldn't take calls while driving.
"I don't think that there are too many conversations that are so important that we can't return the call at a later time," said Contreras. "If the conversation is urgent, then people should pull over to the side of the road safely, or stop somewhere."
She also suggested that if people are travelling on long trips to let other people know that they will be traveling, and that they will return their calls whenever they get to a stopping point.
Distracted driving as well as distracted walking is also an issue among Fort Rucker's youth, and Contreras suggests that parents on the installation make sure their children know the consequences of being distracted.
"We need to talk to our children about these things," she said. "A lot of children are getting to the driving age and they all have cell phones and things like that, and we need to teach them to be responsible with those devices.
"If you think about the consequences of distracted driving, it will make you look at it differently from the start," she continued. "To know, regardless of whether it was an accident or not, that you're responsible for taking somebody's life -- that's a heavy load to carry around."
Even for the aware driver, there are a lot of children on Fort Rucker that will be out near the roadways during this time of year, and people need to be on the lookout for them, said Contreras.
"When I drive, I always look for an out. I'm always asking myself 'where's my out?'" she said. "You should always have a way to get out of a situation and try to prevent getting into that situation by being an aware driver."