By Julie Shelley, Directorate of Communication and Public Affairs, U.S. Army Combat Readiness CenterNovember 16, 2015
The Army achieved its sixth consecutive year of declines in accidental fatalities and reached a historic milestone during the recently closed fiscal year, data from the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center show.
In total, 112 Soldiers died in accidents during fiscal 2015, down from 128 the year before and the lowest figure on record. The longstanding benchmark low of 150 accidental fatalities, set in fiscal 1997, has been continually bested each year since fiscal 2013.
"This accomplishment is a reflection of engaged leaders and Soldiers applying proactive risk management in their on- and off-duty activities," said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Farnsworth, director of Army Safety and commanding general, USACRC. "The fact our numbers are getting lower year after year shows the commitment our force has made to safety."
During the past five years, accidental deaths have fallen 36 percent across the active Army, with substantial reductions recorded for the Guard and Reserve components as well. This trend holds true across nearly all accident categories, with numbers either dropping steadily or remaining stable with historically low rates both on and off duty, according to a recent USACRC analysis.
One statistic that has failed to change over time, however, is the disproportionate number of fatal accidents occurring off duty; in fiscal 2015, the ratio remained at 3-1 versus on-duty accidents. The majority of those mishaps involved private motor vehicles.
"Off-duty PMV deaths have declined significantly, but sedan accidents are still our No. 1 killer of Soldiers," Farnsworth said. "We're also seeing a vastly disparate number of motorcycle fatalities compared to our population of riders. Indiscipline is the leading causal factor in these accidents."
Speeding, failure to wear seat belts/personal protective equipment and alcohol use are the top three indiscipline factors seen in PMV accident reports, USACRC data show. Speed and lack of restraint system use are also leading factors in fatal accidents involving Army motor vehicles such as HMMWVs and Strykers.
"Indiscipline is an issue our NCOs have to hit head on," said Command Sgt. Maj. Leeford Cain, USACRC. "It's mostly E1-E4s dying in vehicle accidents and enlisted leaders on motorcycles. Our NCOs are our first and best line of defense for loss prevention. They should be setting the example in everything they do, from correcting others' risky behavior to emulating the Army values themselves."
Even with these challenges, Farnsworth is optimistic.
"There's no doubt we're on the right track," he said. "Command emphasis, engaged leaders and battle buddies looking out for each other on and off duty will push our accidental loss even lower."
For more information on the Army Safety and Occupational Health program, visit https://safety.army.mil.