Fort Knox Safety warns motorists to put down the cellphone while driving
The start of school has increased the amount of children out and about walking or riding bicycles as motorists travel to and from work. Fort Knox Safety is urging motorists to put down their cell phones while they drive. (Photo Credit: Illustration by Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox News) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT KNOX, Ky. — School is back in session, with children riding their bicycles or walking to and from schoolhouses when several motorists are driving around post.

Because of this and other associated hazards this time to year, Fort Knox Safety is reminding motorists about the dangers of distracted driving.

“Safety doesn’t start at the Safety Office,” said Joe Colson, director of the Fort Knox Safety Office. “It starts with the individual from the time they get into their vehicle.”

National statistics from the Department of Transportation reveal that about 390,000 people are injured each year from accidents caused by distracted driving; specifically from texting and driving. In fact, texting and driving accounts for roughly one in four automobile accidents.

Even more alarming, the Department of Transportation reported that people using cell phones are linked to 1.6 million crashes every year. Just in 2018, over 2,800 people died because of distracted driving — 385 of them from texting and driving to include 202 teens.

A breakdown of the numbers of those killed reveals that 1,730 were drivers, 605 were passengers, 400 of them pedestrians and 77 on bicycles.

Colson said Army leaders should always be concerned about not only their personnel’s safety when they drive on post, but those in danger of being hit by distracted drivers.

“It’s like the number one incident in the United States,” said Colson. “You’ll see individuals driving down all the major highways and talking or texting. Then when you look at the statistics, you find out that that’s one of the primary causes of accidents. It’s a major distracter.”

Army policies make it clear that cellphone use while operating a vehicle is against regulations.

“Vehicle operators on a DOD installation and operators of Government owned vehicles will not use cell phones unless the vehicle is safely parked or unless they are using a hands–free device,” states Army Regulation 190-5, Motor Vehicle Traffic Supervision, under 4-2, Installation Traffic Codes.

The regulation is also spelled out in AR 385–55, The Army Safety Program. Fort Knox regulations back these up.

“Cell phones, PDAs, and similar devices may not be used while operating a motor vehicle unless in a hands-free mode,” states Fort Knox Regulation 1900-5, Fort Knox Motor Vehicle Traffic Supervision, 2-14. “... Cellular systems built into the vehicle and activated by voice or pushbutton, such as, Bluetooth or On-Star, are considered hands free. Further, the Bluetooth device or hands-free kit is the only earpiece or headphone authorized for use by a vehicle operator.

“It may only be used in one ear.”

Colson said unlike a radio or adjusting a mirror, distractions from cell phones come in many forms.

“Sometimes you have to reach up there and touch a button on the screen. When you do that, your eyes go to the direction that you’re pointing,” said Colson. “Now your eyes are coming off the road and going to the screen in front of you, or even down if your cell phone is on the seat or the middle console. During that moment, you don’t know if a pedestrian is crossing the street, or a deer, or anything.”

Personnel who end up in an at-fault accident are required to attend a remedial driver’s course. Fort Knox provides a free eight-hour course on the installation at the Combat Readiness Center, Building 9384. The facility also houses an advanced driver course for Soldiers ages 26 and younger.

Colson said motorists should err on the side of caution.

“I would tell you that regarding cognitive distraction, it’s no different using a handheld device and hands-free,” said Colson. “Either or, you’re still going to be distracted, whether you’re on the phone hands-free or having the cell phone in your hand.”

As a result, he recommends putting the phone away altogether while driving on post.

“At the very least, people should put the phone on vibrate and don’t answer it until get where they’re going,” said Colson. “But the best thing to do is put it on mute and turn it over. Then when you get to your destination, look to see you called you and call them back.

“You can go from one end of the installation to the other in 10-15 minutes; the caller can wait.”