KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
Statistics suggest drivers who are distracted cause 10 percent of all fatal traffic accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In the past month, two accidents have occurred on Kirtland as the result of a driver distracted by a cellphone. One accident involved a cyclist and the other was with a pedestrian who had to be transported for medical care. Both are expected to recover from injuries.
“At 55 miles per hour, taking your eyes off the road for five seconds, you travel more than 100 yards. It’s like driving blindfolded; no one would willingly do that, but it’s the exact same thing when you look at your phone,” said 377th Security Forces Squadron Flight Chief Tech. Sgt. James Colip.
Due to the amount of distracted drivers over the past month between phone conversations and personnel on base playing Pokémon Go, defenders will increase patrols in school zones. Security Forces will also look for distracted drivers in attempt to prevent accidents.
“This is a chance for people driving on base to self-correct. It’s not about us being out to get you; it’s about your safety and the safety of everyone else,” Colip said.
To drive and be able to use your cellphone on base, you must use a hands-free device and there are several ways to accomplish it.
One is to pair a phone to a car Bluetooth that uses the speakers and a microphone in the vehicle.
The second is a single earbud. Drivers can’t use both earbuds due to the need to hear emergency vehicles.
The third option is the speakerphone function. However, motorists cannot hold the phone.
Motorcyclists can use the intercom system in their helmets to talk hands-free.
The notice that the cell use must be hands-free when driving on base is posted at all Kirtland gates.
“There is no excuse because it’s posted right there at the gate,” Colip said.
The punishments for driving and talking on a cellphone are a Points Assessed ticket and notification of the first sergeant or commander.
An individual is allowed 12 points in a year before driving privileges are revoked. Driving and talking is two points assessed.
For texting and driving, the points assessed will be higher and can include a fine for civilians.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. population estimate in 2014 was 318.9 million. There were more than 6 million car crashes that year, according to NHTSA.
Of the accidents, more than 29,000, or 0.5 percent, were fatal, according to NHTSA. Of the fatal accidents, 10 percent, or 2,955, were caused by distracted drivers.
NHTSA estimates more than 10 million crashes go unreported a year.
“That phone call, that text message, it can wait. Focus on driving. Last thing you want is a senseless death,” Colip said.