The Dangers of Distracted Driving

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Zachary Hada
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Airmen and their families rely on their vehicles to commute to and from work, sometimes with unnecessary distractions.

Few realize that while behind the wheel, their vehicle acts as a 2,000-pound extension of themselves capable of causing property damage, personal injury or even death.

As a result, Ellsworth, the state and the local area all have separate policies and laws dictating the use of vehicles, especially when it comes to distracted driving.

Air Force Instruction 31-218 "Motor Vehicle Traffic Supervision", along with Ellsworth's supplement 31-204, clearly outlines the regulations for safe operation of motor vehicles while on base.

"Not everyone realizes just how dangerous it is to drive while being distracted," said Michael Walters, 28th Bomb Wing ground safety occupational health deputy. "You can easily miss things like stop signs, or children playing in the street."

One key element emphasized in the regulation is using a cell phone while driving.

"You can't use a cell phone or any portable device while driving on base," Walters said. "Talking and texting isn't allowed, unless the vehicle is parked or you are using a hands-free device."

Kyle Battell, 28th Security Forces Squadron, explained that the consequences, at Ellsworth, for being caught talking or texting on a cell phone while behind the wheel include receiving three traffic points on your driver's license, which can lead to its revocation, as well as up to one year of suspended driving privileges on base.

In addition, Airmen and their families should be aware of local and state distracted driving laws recently put into effect.

As of July 1, 2014, texting while driving is banned for the state of South Dakota, with drivers under the age of 18 with restricted or learner's licenses barred from using any wireless communication devices since July 2013. Both prohibitions are secondary laws, meaning law enforcement officials must have seen a second violation in order to issue a texting citation.

Rapid City adopted a different law making texting while driving a primary offense, for which drivers may be stopped, effective May 16, 2014.

"A driver's first responsibility is to pay attention to the road," said Battell. "The bottom line is electronic hand-held devices are distractions to drivers and pose a safety hazard to motorists and pedestrians."
Walters said the Ground Safety office works to inform Airmen about the rules for safely operating a vehicle.

"We tell Airmen at Right Start briefings and during the First Term Airman Course that cell phones are not to be used while driving," Walters said. "We send monthly bulletins to Ellsworth Airmen that often address distracted driving."

Walters suggested Airmen turn off cell phones or pull over to answer calls and remain alert while driving to prevent potential mishaps or unnecessary tragedy.

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