By Julie Shelley, Strategic Communication Directorate, U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, Fort Rucker, AlabamaOctober 11, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Data recently compiled by the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center show fiscal 2012 was the second-safest year for Soldiers on record, with a 9 percent annual decline in accidental fatalities continuing a downward trend first begun in fiscal 2007.
A total of 161 Soldiers died in accidents during fiscal 2012, a tie with numbers recorded in fiscal 2000. Fiscal 1997 was the Army's safest year, with 150 accidental fatalities reported both on and off duty.
"Our leaders, Soldiers, safety professionals and Family members should be very proud of what they've done for safety," said Brig. Gen. Timothy J. Edens, director of Army Safety and commanding general, USACR/Safety Center. "Between our sustained operations overseas, including combat, and the transition back to home station operations for a majority of our force, things could have gone much differently.
"The fact we're back at peacetime accident levels despite the flux demonstrates the commitment our leaders and Soldiers have to safety, and to one another."
Several on-duty areas saw significant improvement during fiscal 2012. With four combined losses, fatal Army Combat Vehicle accidents, which had been on an upward trend since fiscal 2009, fell to their lowest point in six years. Aviation fatalities were at a decade low, besting last year's performance with a drop from 11 aircraft-related deaths to 10.
Despite this success, Edens cautioned against complacency, especially regarding off-duty safety.
"Of our 2012 off-duty fatalities, 84 percent were the result of privately owned vehicle or motorcycle accidents," said Edens. "We've been fighting this battle for years, and while we're making progress, we can't let improved numbers give us a false sense of security. After all, each of those numbers represents a Soldier who's no longer with his or her formation or Family.
"Reaching Soldiers off duty has always been a tough issue. The new fiscal year is a good time for us to take a fresh look at our safety and engagement programs and make needed changes."
Looking ahead, Edens urged leaders and Soldiers to stay alert to the dangers of indiscipline, which remains a leading problem in POV and POM accidents.
"Accidents don't occur in a vacuum -- someone knows when a Soldier is engaging in high-risk behavior," he said. "If it's not a leader, it's a fellow Soldier or buddy. Fate isn't responsible when a Soldier dies in an accident; we're the ones responsible if we didn't do everything we could to prevent it from happening."
The Army's latest safety campaign, Know the Signs, is themed around personal accountability in combating indiscipline. The complete campaign, featuring media releases, video public service announcements, posters and other downloadable materials, is available at https://safety.army.mil.
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