Safety No. 1 priority when travelling during holiday season

By Catrina Francis Pentagram EditorNovember 24, 2021

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

As the joint base community prepares for the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, making sure service members, civilians and Family members return safely is the No. 1 priority to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall’s leadership.

David Ward, the JBM-HH safety chief, said it’s important for travelers to plan road trips, think ahead and use risk management on and off duty, especially when planning long trips to visit Family and friends during the holidays.

“Plan ahead to map out your trip (and) make sure your vehicle is in good working order,” said Ward. “When you are planning your trip, you are also planning your stops, (and) potentially planning your overnight stay depending on how far you drive. You don’t want to take any unnecessary risks. For example, you want to pack a ‘go bag.’ Some of the items that should be in the go bag is (a) cellphone charger, first aid kit, flashlight (and) flares.”

Ward pointed out that individuals need to make sure their spare tire is in good working order. Having a small supply of nonperishable foods to include drinking water should be included in items that will be needed for the trip.

Ward said it’s important for individuals to inform others when they are leaving and what time they should be expected to get there. If planning trips, let someone know that plan. Do not take unnecessary risk. One of those risks is driving drowsy, because individuals are sometimes determined to get to their final destination and they think it’s safe to continue driving.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, in 2019 there were 697 deaths attributed to drowsy driving. Drowsy driving can have similar effects as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For example, consequences include decreased reaction times, awareness of surrounding hazards and the inability to sustain attention. Those are the characteristics of driving under the influence that can also occur during drowsy driving, Ward said.

“We want our Soldiers and civilian workers to enjoy the holidays,” he said. “We want them to be festive but we want them to be prudent in their decision. (People) are our most valuable resource, not the million-dollar equipment — it’s the human resource. We want them to return on the backside of the holiday.”

He added that it’s also important that individuals wear seatbelts, because it’s a proven fact they reduce accidents.

Ward said that taking a road trip can often be stressful for any individual and his or her Family. However, adhering to the following tips may relieve some of the stress and add to the good times.

· Plan the route in advance and schedule regular breaks along the way

· Prior to hitting the road, sleep at least seven hours for two consecutive nights

· Have the car inspected by a certified mechanic to ensure the vehicle is in good working order

· Fill up the fuel tank and do not allow the gas gage to go below one-quarter

· Remove clutter from the vehicle before the trip and during stops while underway

· Bring ample food, snacks and water

· Individuals need to make sure they have sufficient cash for tolls and miscellaneous items

· Don’t overload your vehicle

· Keep a clear view for driving and recognizing hazards

· Maintain a sharp awareness and keep passengers occupied

· Secure pets

· Drive defensively

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each day in the United States, approximately nine people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that reportedly involve a distracted driver. Anything that takes a person’s attention away from driving is a distraction. So, individuals should make sure they have someone next to them to assist with the navigation system, texting or driving. Individuals can’t drive safely unless the task of driving has their full attention. Any nondriving activity a person engages in is a potential distraction and increases his or her risk of a crash.

Ward said there are a couple of tools individuals can use prior to taking a road trip. He said they should use a deliberate risk assessment worksheet, DD Form 2977, identifies hazards and measures a person can take to reduce the likelihood of hazards occurring. Another tool is the Travel Risk Planning System. For more information on TRiPS, visit

Ward said if an individual is traveling a long distance by car, he or she should think about an overnight stay.

According to the Defense Travel website’s FAQs, a traveler who is authorized permanent change of station travel by a privately owned vehicle is allowed one day of travel for the first 400 miles between authorized points. For any distance greater than 400 miles, the traveler is allowed another day of travel for every additional 350 miles.

For more information about traveling during the holidays, contact Ward at (703) 696-0828 or by email at

Pentagram editor Catrina Francis can be reached at