Preventable Losses Hurt Our Navy Family

CAPT Lawrence Scruggs, chief of staff for Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, right, leads Sailors in a sign-waving campaign along Lehua Avenue to encourage drivers to slow down along a school zone. The sign-waving event with local residents and the Honolulu Police Department to communicate the importance of safe driving and the need to obey speed limits near Lehua Elementary School. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mark Logico)

In his 2016 end-of-year ALSAFE message to the fleet, Naval Safety Center top leader RDML Christopher J. Murray addressed the urgency of paying attention to the Navy’s largest challenge: traffic deaths.

FY 2016 saw a nearly 100 percent increase in fatal automobile mishaps compared to FY 2015. We are also still losing Sailors to motorcycle crashes. Many of these losses could have been prevented. Leadership engagement and using proven controls to lower risk are the keys to ensuring our Sailors are successful in combatting this challenge.

Too many Sailors are not wearing seat belts, in spite of the fact that it is a requirement whenever they are a driver or passenger in a motor vehicle. In 22 percent of fatal crashes during the last five years, Sailors were not wearing their seat belts. Many of those Sailors would be alive today if they had been.

Distracted driving is another issue that plagues our force and our nation. Distraction includes texting, eating, and technology use. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 1 in 10 fatalities nationwide involves some type of distraction. Fourteen states currently ban all mobile phone use while driving, as well as all naval installations.

Gas prices are falling again, and according to NHTSA, that has resulted in an 8 percent increase in traffic fatalities attributed to an increase in miles driven. However, despite low gas prices, a significant portion of our force rides motorcycles. Quality motorcycle training saves lives, but training compliance across the Navy is just 77 percent for both sport bike and non-sport bike riders. Training no-shows for the Basic Rider Course and Advanced Rider Courses are prevalent at 23 percent across the Navy, and they keep those who need the class from getting a spot. Navy Region Southwest and Hawaii have 25 percent no-show rates, Naval District Washington and Navy Region Mid-Atlantic have 23 percent no-shows, Navy Region Southwest has a 21 percent rate, and Navy Region Northwest has a relatively low but still improvable rate of 13 percent no shows for classes. The best way to get to 100 percent compliance is through a strong motorcycle safety program with a motorcycle safety representative (MSR) who ensures all motorcycle riders are identified, enrolled in, and complete all required initial and refresher training. MSRs should aggressively check motorcycle rider licensing, training compliance, and participation in mentorship programs. This collateral duty is one of the most important safety positions in the Fleet and good MSRs deserve our thanks and recognition for their efforts.

During long holiday weekends and summer breaks, many of our shipmates will hit the roads. Encourage the use of the online travel risk planning system tool, available at https://trips.safety.army.mil/. Not only does this tool help Sailors recognize the hazards inherent in their planned travel, it also gets frontline supervisors involved in a mentorship role which helps solidify our safety culture.

Finally, incorporate basic risk management into discussions during quarters or command safety briefs. Talks about the risks associated with speed, fatigue, and alcohol use.

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Source: ALSAFE 012/16, “Rise in PMV4 Mishaps FY15 – FY16