NEWS | June 21, 2011

628th Safety Office focuses on traffic safety

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jennifer Hudson, Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs Office

Sailors and civilians were able to learn about the harsh realities and dangers of driving while impaired or without their seatbelts fastened through an interactive and educational traffic safety event hosted by the 628th Air Base Wing Safety Office at the Naval Exchange, June 15. The simulators were also available at the JB CHS - Air Base Exchange June 16.

The events included a drunk-driving simulation course that allowed Sailors to gain a perspective of driving while impaired and a South Carolina Highway Patrol roll-over demonstration which showed the importance of wearing seatbelts. Members of the JB CHS Airmen Against Drunk Driving Association were also present and provided educational materials to participants.

"We are always looking for new ways to raise awareness of traffic safety throughout the community rather than just pushing out training pamphlets and holding lectures," said Glenda Middleton, 628 ABW Safety Office specialist. "Hosting events such as this with fun, interactive scenarios really brings home the dangers of drunk driving or not wearing a seatbelt and hopefully has an impact on the decisions people make."

According to S.C. Highway Patrol Lance Corporal Bob Beres, there have already been 352 deaths on S.C. roadways since January 2011, of which 140 were not wearing their seatbelts.

"You are seven times more likely to die in a collision not being buckled up," he said. "The rollover simulator is basically the cab of a Chevy S-10 on a skewer. There are two dummies in it: a child in the passenger seat and an adult dummy in the driver seat and neither are restrained. The cab rotates at 12 to 15 mph and 50 percent of the time, the dummies come out on the left and the other 50 percent of the time they are ejected out to the right. What is important to note is that the dummies are ejected from the vehicle 100 percent of the time."

The test dummies' ejection drove home the importance of seat belts, while the more daring participants tried the drunken driving simulator which showed the disturbing effects of driving while impaired.

Participants wore impaired-vision goggles as they drove a golf cart through a controlled course at the Navy Exchange parking lot. The course was marked with traffic cones, representing people. The goggles simulated the visual impairment of a blood alcohol level of 0.08, the legal limit.

"Too often we think if we stay under the legal limit we are not going to have any problems. This simulator shows just how impaired a person really is at 0.08," said Mrs. Middleton. "When you drive the cart you realize you really don't have your full capabilities."

"The course was hard. I knocked down four cones which would be equivalent to hitting four people," said Hull Technician Chief Christopher Fury, Nuclear Power Training Unit. "If I was facing criminal charges in the real world, I would be looking at a lot of time in prison. This is definitely no joke."

From the most experienced drivers to the youngest, participants commented on the difficulty of the course.

"Driving the course was definitely an experience I will not be forgetting anytime soon," said Seaman Recruit Ryan Croft, Department of Transient Personnel. "It was hard to do anything with the goggles on. I felt like I would trip if I even tried to walk. The goggles really messed with my coordination and reaction time."

"I hope people leave with the understanding that even a little impaired is still impaired. The consequences of hitting and killing someone are just not worth it," said Mrs. Middleton.

According to Rick Dangerfield, 628 ABW Safety Office manager, being impaired does not only mean being under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Fatigue or sickness can play a big part in a person's coordination and reaction time and can cause the same signs of impairment as drugs or alcohol.

"The main thing here is to reinforce risk management and always have a designated driver and a plan," Mr. Dangerfield said. "In the Air Force it's called being a good wingman and in the Navy it's watching out for your shipmates. Take the responsibility and if necessary, the keys, to make sure you and your friends get home safely."