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Dangers of distracted driving

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- During an 11-mile commute to work this week on Highway 24, I observed countless drivers engaged in many activities, from holding conversations with their passengers to talking on their cell phones and sending text messages. I also saw two women applying their makeup.

Any activity that may divert a vehicle operator's attention from driving is considered a distraction and all distractions have the potential to endanger the lives of that driver, their passengers, and any bystanders. Distractions may include texting, reading (maps, books, newspapers, etc.), using a cell phone or other electronic device, and grooming. According to statistics provided by the U.S. Government's website for Distracted Driving, about 3,000 people are killed annually in motor vehicle accidents that involved a distracted driver. An additional 416,000 were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers.

Members of the 21st Space Wing security forces squadron continue to cite drivers for using their cell phones while driving. Air Force and local guidance currently prohibit the use of cellular telephones while operating motor vehicles on Peterson AFB, unless the driver is using an approved hands-free device. Although using a cell phone in speaker-mode may be considered "hands-free," it still isn't an approved method of use if the driver is holding the phone in their hands while driving. Drivers observed doing this may be cited and may have their installation driving privileges suspended for at least 14 days. All offenders face administrative action, and military members may also be punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Text messaging while driving is illegal both on and off Peterson AFB. And for good reason, since text messaging is perhaps the most alarming distraction because it engages visual, manual, and cognitive attention. According to U.S. Government studies, each sent or read text message takes a driver's eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds.

If you were driving at 55 mph, during that time you would travel the entire length of a football field. A lot can happen.

Due to the dangers of distracted driving, look for information coming soon regarding additional restrictions on the use of electronic devices while operating motor vehicles on Peterson AFB. In the meantime, put the phone down, route your GPS before you put the car in drive, and put your makeup on at home. A single life lost is one too many.

For more information, contact the 21st SFS reports and analysis manager at 556-3484.

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