Did COVID-19 save your life? That might seem a strange question, but along with the hardship and heartbreak affecting so many people in the pandemic, there is some good news: Fewer Soldiers are dying in off-duty mishaps. During March and April, the Army lost 12 fewer Soldiers off duty (8 versus 20) than the same time frame in 2019. Who would have thought a potentially deadly virus would contribute to saving 12 Soldiers’ lives?
How did that happen and what changed? Well, federal and state governments and Army leaders did some risk management for you. They mitigated hazards and implemented controls when they closed places you might have gone otherwise. If you don’t have anywhere to go, you’re less likely to be driving. Off-duty motor vehicle mishaps kill more Soldiers than all on-duty mishaps combined, a fact that has held true for many years. Additionally, bars and nightclubs were closed and large gatherings prohibited. This is important because alcohol consumption contributes to as many as 25 percent of all fatal Soldier vehicle mishaps. Fatigue contributes another 15-20 percent. So if you can’t drive to a bar or friend’s house, drink, and then try to drive home, you won’t be part of that statistic. You won’t if you can’t travel far from home station while fatigued either. You might also have spent less time on other high-risk activities that were closed or unavailable. In that way, maybe COVID 19 did save your life.
What comes next? States are starting to reopen restaurants and bars and authorize larger gatherings. We might soon be back to something resembling normal, but how will you handle it? It might be tempting to tear the roof off the joint to make up for lost time, but that is neither necessary nor wise. The pandemic isn’t over just because leaders are lifting restrictions; the risk of exposure is still there. And there’s the ever-present risk of vehicle mishaps when you do go out to party or travel. We aren’t telling you to stay locked in your quarters ─ just to manage risk as life gets back on track. The more we return to the day-to-day, the more risk management is back on you.
A large percentage of you have survived combat deployments. Almost all of you have been through significant training scenarios at home station and the combat training centers. You have so far survived lockdowns driven by COVID-19 and, to date, the Army hasn’t lost an active duty or on-orders reserve component Soldier to the disease. Don’t let the “freedom” that comes next put you at greater risk of both the virus and other hazards out there every day. It appears COVID-19 may have saved 12 of you. Don’t allow the excitement of normal life to take them away.
Readiness Through Safety!