23 July 2007 (#13-07)

Safety Update #2
Current Status of Fiscal Year 2007

1. Now that we are in the last quarter of this fiscal year and well into the Army in Europe Summer Safety 2007 Leader Engagement Campaign, the time has come to review our safety posture again. In our March 2007 safety update, we reported a flat fatality rate. Unfortunately, that rate is beginning to climb.

2. Since the last safety update, we have lost three more Soldiers to accidents. Below is a summary of these accidents and an analysis of what went wrong:

AcaEUR"A(th)A noncommissioned officer was fatally wounded while taking part in a live-fire exercise in GrafenwAfAPhr. He had rehearsed the exercise plan correctly, but during the actual exercise, he failed to follow the plan as rehearsed. Instead, he passed between a shooter and the target. This was a fatal error. This proves that a good plan can go wrong when it is not followed, and our individual actions can make a difference between life and death. Each of us must accept responsibility for our actions and learn how to recognize and avoid dangerous situations. In addition, leaders must oversee the implementation of risk-minimization decisions.

AcaEUR"A(th)Two Soldiers were killed in off-duty vehicle crashes. Speed and loss of vehicle control were cited as factors in both, as they have been in all other fatal vehicle accidents we have suffered this fiscal year. On the positive side, alcohol was not a known factor in either accident.

AcaEUR"A? One Soldier died in a single-car crash involving two Soldiers, both of whom were specialists. The driver took an exit ramp too fast for the wet road conditions, lost control of the vehicle, and hit a guardrail. A vehicle needs contact friction between its tires and the road surface to speed up, slow down, and change directions. With more complex maneuvers, such as braking and turning at the same time, the contact friction is more limited, which makes it more difficult to control the vehicle. For this reason, it is easier to lose control while braking on a curve, especially when the road is wet. To avoid losing control, anticipate the curve conditions and slow down. Keep in mind that if its tires lose contact friction with the road, the vehicle you are in will continue to travel at the same speed and in the same direction it was going when the friction was lost.

AcaEUR"A? A master sergeant who was at the end of his tour was killed in a motorcycle accident. He was riding a top-of-the-line Suzuki GSX 1300R Hayabusa, which he had recently bought. At the time of the crash, he was estimated to have been traveling at 100 kilometers per hour (kpm). (The speed limit was 50 kpm.) He failed to negotiate a turn, "dumped" his bike, and slid before hitting a solid object. Preliminary loss reports issued by the United States Army Combat Readiness Center (USACRC) indicate that several fatal crashes involving this type of motorcycle have occurred over the past few months. Riders who "step up" in power should seriously consider taking the garrison-sponsored Motorcycle Safety Foundation Experienced Rider Course with their new bike as soon as possible.

3. We must do better in our efforts to prevent fatalities such as these. I have specifically asked commanders and leaders to support the Army in Europe Summer Safety 2007 Leader Engagement Campaign by improving their engagement with their chain of command and their Soldiers. This requires us to take an offensive, not defensive, posture.

4. So far this fiscal year, we have had eight off-duty fatalities in comparison to one on duty. This trend indicates that some Soldiers-including some leaders-are still living in two different cultures and are not assessing the risks associated with their off-duty activities in the same manner as they do while on duty. To reverse this trend, we need to promote an effective and efficient safety culture and establish a single high standard of what constitutes safe behavior, both on an off duty. We need to examine the differences between how Soldiers plan their off-duty activities in relation to how they plan their on-duty activities. We also must examine our participation in on- and off-duty activities in relation to the four main causes of accidents: indiscipline, overconfidence, complacency, and insufficient training and experience.

5. During the remaining summer months, we must continue to emphasize water safety. USACRC preliminary loss reports provide details of several recent cases of Soldiers drowning in which alcohol was a factor. In many of these cases, the victim's friends were present but could not help. Two videos available through garrison safety offices put the danger of drowning into perspective. The Reasons People Drown is a commercial, 25-minute video that provides facts and dispels rumors about drowning. In addition, USAREUR has just fielded European Water Safety on DVD, which addresses issues unique to recreational swimming in Europe. This DVD is also available through training support centers (PIN A0954-06-0053).

6. Although the number of fatalities is lower than it was at this time last year, our fatality rate is actually rising, because the number of Soldiers in Europe is decreasing. All other factors being equal, we should have significantly fewer fatalities. This should give all of us strong motivation to engage ourselves in every possible way to do what is right as a cultural norm and to eliminate accidents.

7. I salute all of you who are aggressively working to recognize and avoid dangerous behavior. We all should take a hard look at the differences between our on- and off-duty behavior. By making the right choices, we can improve our safety posture now and throughout the summer.