FORT LEE, Va. (April 15, 2010) - Over the past four fiscal years, the Army lost an average of one company from a battalion formation to off-duty accidents.

Through Soldier, Family, and leader engagement, and by applying the composite risk management process to off-duty activities, this pattern can be changed.

In most Army accidents, indiscipline, overconfidence, lack of training and complacency are contributing factors. Off-duty, the most frequent mistakes are speed, alcohol, fatigue and failure to use seat belts or personal protective equipment.

A change of culture and climate is possible if leaders at all levels are engaged and their expectations are clear regarding safety. Integrating composite risk management into everything done on- and off-duty will instill a safety first attitude in all personnel. Risk management cannot be an afterthought.

Historically, during the spring and summer months, the Army experiences an increase in off-duty accidents. Soldiers, Families and Civilians must be aware of, and address, the additional hazards associated with the spring and summer activities, particularly those involving vehicle operations, sports (especially water activities) and weapons handling. Fatigue and alcohol-related accidents are two of the most preventable incidents in the Army.

Fatigue slows reaction time and leads to higher incidents of traffic and on-the-job-related accidents. In fact, fatigued and drowsy drivers cause an estimated 100,000 police-reported crashes each year, and these types of crashes are more likely to result in a fatality. Alcohol consumption impairs judgment, causes poor vision and slows reaction time – all of which can lead to an accident. Alcohol is a factor in many off-duty accidents.

While most alcohol-related accidents involve personally-owned vehicles, each year there are many boating, swimming, fishing and other sport-related accidents involving alcohol. When it comes to accident prevention, alcohol-related accidents are easily preventable.

Since fiscal year 2000, the Army has lost the equivalent of a brigade sized unit in POV and personally owned motorcycle accidents. A significant number of these accidents could have been prevented if the Soldier had used common sense (i.e., risk management) or if a leader, friend or Family member intervened.

Driving a government vehicle, POV or POM on military installations is a privilege granted by the installation commander. Persons who accept the privilege must comply with Army regulations or risk losing that privilege as stated in Army Regulation 190-5.

Following Army regulations extends well beyond the boundaries of an installation and requires service members to observe them 24/7. When driving vehicles, follow all rules and regulations, to include: wearing seat belts, controlling speeds, driving sober, not using cell phones while driving and, most importantly, staying alert. Be safe and drive defensively every time, all the time.

The installation commander or designee may for cause, or any lawful reason, administratively suspend or revoke driving privileges on the installation. The suspension or revocation of installation driving privileges or POV registrations, for lawful reasons unrelated to traffic violations or safe vehicle operation, is not limited or restricted by this regulation.

One of every three accidents in a POV and 65 percent of the motorcycle fatalities were from the ranks of sergeant through major. The contributing factors in vehicle crashes are speed, inattention, reckless and aggressive driving, driving while under the influence or while fatigued, failing to follow traffic signs and signals, etc. Also, when it comes to injuries, failing to use restraints or proper protective equipment are contributing factors.

The Army estimates it has about 75,000 motorcycle riders, plus another 20,000 or so between the National Guard and Army Reserve. In fiscal year 2008, 55 Soldiers died in motorcycle crashes, a 34 percent jump from the previous year. Speed and loss of control have been identified as contributing factors in the majority of motorcycle crashes, as was the case in this accident. Do not allow someone who is not trained or licensed to operate a motorcycle as it can have deadly consequences.

In fiscal year 2009, only one out of 10 motorcycle accidents was due to the motorcycle being struck by another vehicle. Sport bikes are involved in more motorcycle crashes than any other type. In the majority of all motorcycle accidents, the rider is at fault. Driving too fast for conditions and speeding are the most common errors made by motorcycle riders, followed by failing to yield to traffic signs and signals, not wearing the proper PPE, and being untrained and unlicensed.

A growing area of concern is accidents involving Soldiers who are struck by cars or trains while walking along roads and railways. Sixty-five percent of pedestrian accidents occurred between 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. To date, the Army has lost five Soldiers after they were struck by a POV. Many of the off-duty pedestrian accidents involved alcohol. Opting to not drink and drive is the right thing to do, as well as not riding in a vehicle with someone who is operating it under the influence. Keep in mind that it can be just as dangerous on foot as in a vehicle.

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