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Consequences of distracted driving

Texting while driving is illegal and can result in hefty fines, driver’s license point reductions and suspensions. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at least 3,300 drivers are killed annually from distracted driving while another 424,000 are injured each year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Sadie Colbert/Released)

Texting while driving is illegal and can result in hefty fines, driver’s license point reductions and suspensions. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at least 3,300 drivers are killed annually from distracted driving while another 424,000 are injured each year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Sadie Colbert/Released)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- In a fast-paced environment where individuals juggle work schedules and family obligations, distractions often lead drivers into making risky decisions while on the road.

"Immediately, most people think of cellphone use when talking about distracted driving," said Staff Sgt. Kenneth Hill, 28th Bomb Wing ground safety technician. "It's not just texting or making phone calls while driving. It's anything that averts a driver's attention from the road that can put them, their passengers [or anyone else] at risk."

Daydreaming, eating and reading are a few ways individuals can become distracted, unnecessarily putting themselves and passengers in harm's way.

Even though the 28th Security Forces Squadron and the dedicate personnel and resources to putting a stop to such reckless behavior, the base still has violators to watch out for and consequences that come with violating traffic laws.

"One distraction would be, of course, texting and driving or talking on the phone without a hands-free device," Hill said.

For anyone who operates a motor vehicle off-base while using a handheld electronic device to write, send or read text messages can be charged with a petty offense and a fine of $100.

The law does not apply to individuals who are lawfully parked, trying to contact 911, or using voice operated or hands-free technology.

"As far as on-base, I know the first offense of using a cell phone while driving is three points deducted from your driver's license and a warning about your driving privileges getting suspended," Hill said.

The punishments do not stop there. A second offense will earn Airmen an additional three points deducted from their driving record and a 30-day suspension from driving on the installation.

The third offense results in on-base driving privileges being revoked for one year and another three points deducted from their record.

Some consequences are more than just fines, point deductions or driver's license suspensions. Sometimes, lives are lost.

"People need to be defensive drivers while out traveling," Hill said. "You may be doing everything correct and abiding by the law but that doesn't mean the individual beside you or in the oncoming lane is."

In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at least 3,300 drivers are killed annually from distracted driving while another 424,000 are injured each year.

Fortunately, Ellsworth has not experienced the loss of an Airman from a distracted driving accident, in part, because every individual has the power to help prevent distracted driving, Hill said.

"If you have children, make sure they are properly secured, and have everything they need prior to departing." Hill said. "Secure your pets properly so they aren't running around in the car, and that your radio and climate control is set prior to leaving. Also, while driving, don't answer your phone if you aren't using a hands free device. Let the call go to voicemail until you arrive at your destination to return the call."

Safety precautions are essential to preventing future accidents. If the call or message is that important, take the nearest exit or turn into the next parking lot and avoid a potentially dangerous situation.

For more information, contact the Ground Safety office at (605) 385-7223.

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