Friday, November 18, 2011

TOP STORY >> Avoid safety-awareness hibernation this winter

By Staff Sgt. Jacob Barreiro
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

After navigating through the scathing cauldron that was the summer weather at Little Rock Air Force Base, Team Little Rock members are probably ready to simmer down, cool-off and enjoy the hopefully more amiable conditions in the fall.

However, TLR members shouldn’t let brisk weather, pleasant gusts of wind, and resplendent foliage lull them into a stupor. Safety measures should be a priority at all times of the year, and the weather changes in November and December prove no exception. Safety hazards at the end of the year include strong winds, heavy and frequent rains, surprisingly low-temperatures for those unprepared and the ever-present driving hazards constantly plaguing Arkansas.

“Driving has always been a problem around here,” said Tech. Sgt. Ricky Carroll, 19th Airlift Wing ground safety technician. “Fall driving particularly presents a lot of obstacles for drivers. Some of them are the driver’s fault, and some are the work of mother nature, but drivers need to remember to be cautious at all times.”

Driving accidents are indeed commonplace in Arkansas, said Joe Wooding, 19th AW safety specialist.
Despite being the 14th least populated state, Arkansas has the sixth most traffic fatalities in the United States.

This staggering statistic means that Team Little Rock members should be extra cautious when driving and particularly conscious during dangerous time periods.

Two of the most hazardous times for drivers are sunrise and sunset, said Carroll. Sudden changes in the lighting or glare from the morning sun can present special problems for some drivers.

“It seems obvious, but sunglasses are a big help in getting rid of the sun-glare that pops up during these hours,” he said. “Although people need to use common sense and know when to take the glasses off, obviously you shouldn’t have the shades on at night time, this is especially dangerous.”

While dawn and dusk are hazardous times for drivers, the most hazardous time is in the dead of the night, said Carroll. The long stretches of rural roads with sparse surrounding and occasionally no street lights can turn a car into a midnight-motorized menace.

“You are twice as likely to have a fatal accident during night as during the day,” Carroll said. “The sudden appearances of street lights or bright lights from other cars are real problems. The problems are only amplified when the road is slick from rain, snow or ice.”

Along with being cautious for weather changes, drivers should also remember to be on the look-out for pedestrians, said Carroll. Also be advised of school-children, driving in school zones and above all, be aware of the other drivers on the road.

“It’s always best to practice defensive driving,” said Carroll. “Just take the steps to be courteous to other drivers even if you think they aren’t being courteous to you. Nobody wins when there’s a car collision or a pedestrian gets struck because two drivers were going at it.”

Driving may be one of the biggest hazards in Arkansas, but the season changes can present other, more predictable problems that can be overcome by simply planning ahead, said Carroll.

Watch the weather forecast, he said. It’s not always perfect, but it’s a good indicator of what’s going to happen in the area, and can give people a heads up on preparing for snow, ice and inclement weather.
“We can get some chilly weather up here,” Carroll said. “Being the south, it seems like people aren’t always as ready for the snow, or when the snow comes, they aren’t always sure how to react to it. Cold weather can be dangerous, heaters can break, cars can break down, accidents happen and cold weather can make it worse.”

It’s good to keep a stock of warm items in the car, he added. Flashlights, blankets, water, and extra warm gear can be helpful in the event of an ill-timed breakdown. It’s always prudent to think safety first no matter the time of year or place.

“Extra batteries are important in the winter time, and even a generator may be helpful if power is lost,” Carroll said. “The important thing is to think ahead and always try to be prepared. That way the odds of situations catching you unaware and leaving you in a bad situation are less.”

So, even when the scorched earth of the summer is a thing of the past, TLR members shouldn’t go into safety-awareness hibernation, but should always stay vigilant for those safety stumbling stones that could lead to pitfalls and bring on a winter of discontent.

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