FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Command Sgt. Maj. Richard D. Stidley, U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, recently addressed the Fort Rucker Community Spouses Club on the importance of Family involvement in Soldier safety.

Stidley spoke about the role spouses play in helping their Soldiers stay safe once they've left post and are in the home or driving environment.

He began with praising Families for their part in reducing accidental fatalities to historic lows.

"Just a few years ago, that number was 300," he said, noting the 161 on- and off-duty accidental fatalities recorded during fiscal 2012 were on par with pre-September 11 levels.

Stidley focused on off-duty accidents, which accounted for about 80 percent of Soldier fatalities during the fiscal year. He added that privately owned vehicle accidents, which make up the vast majority of off-duty fatalities every year, are especially devastating.

According to Stidley, Soldiers leaving post at the end of the duty day lose the direct supervision of leaders and battle buddy mentoring that has proven so successful in driving down on-duty accidents. He emphasized that when leaders and buddies are absent, every spouse can have a profound impact on his or her Soldier's safety.

"The same Soldier who mows the yard in front of his headquarters with his uniform on, his boots and his goggles and his earplugs, goes home on Saturday and mows the backyard in flip flops and a pair of shorts," Stidley said. "Choices -- bad decisions -- are costing our Soldiers their lives. Caring spouses can be that voice of caution Soldiers need when there is no leader to intervene on the Soldier's behalf. That's why I need your help."

Stidley promoted several safety tools produced by the USACR/Safety Center and designed just for Families, including the Family Corner featured at and the popular Family Engagement Kit.

"That's how important we think Family members are to helping us with our problem," he said, explaining that all tools are routinely updated and other Family resources are in development.