Friday, December 9, 2011

TOP STORY >> Holiday driving safety reminder for the Rock

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

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

– Robert Frost

Frost-tipped tree branches, barren of leaves, bristling pines and the tranquil Arkansas landscape, evinced by rolling hills, bounding deer, and other wildlife, can be a charming and disarming site to spectators; however, Team Little Rock members shouldn’t let the calm, sterilized, atmospheric tides of winter put their awareness to sleep while driving those many miles , or else they may be thrown in tumult with consequences like damaged property, speeding tickets, traffic violations, and, at worst, injuries and casualties to themselves and others.

During the holiday season it’s feasible that service members may be given early-dismissal or late-reporting times. The base commander encourages TLR members to drive extra carefully when this occurs, and to always check with their chain of command to verify early-dismissals or late-reporting times.

“I want to make sure that every TLR member adheres to proper safety precautions when road conditions get dicey,” said Col. Mike Minihan, 19th Airlift Wing commander. “A base-wide speed limit of 15 mph will be enforced when there is an early-dismissal or late-reporting date.  Additionally, everyone should verify any changes to working schedules with their supervisors and chain of command. Posts made on social-media networks like Facebook may not apply to everyone on the base.”

The most hazardous time for drivers, especially in the winter time, is in the dead of the night, said Tech. Sgt. Ricky Carroll, 19th AW ground safety technician. The long stretches of rural roads with sparse surrounding and occasionally no street lights can turn a car into a dangerous machine.
“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 and wildlife, 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 when a pedestrian gets struck because two drivers were not practicing safe driving techniques.”

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 drivers 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 as they should, 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. Luck favors the well prepared”

So while driving down those long, sometimes-isolated, stretches of Arkansas highway, byways and access roads, try to stay alert and save the sleeping, figuratively and literally, for the bedroom.

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