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Spring into Pedestrian Safety: Watch your step!

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jason Wolfe
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Safety
We're fortunate. Every day 9,500 vehicles drive through MacDill Air Force Base's four gates, as the 6th Security Forces members welcome joint, coalition and civilian partners to this tremendous military installation. Most of that traffic proceeds past our largest joint partner, U.S. Central Command, on their way to work. As the sun begins to come up, about half of the traffic is already parked, and warriors have made their way across the streets they just drove in on, in relative darkness. Much of this foot traffic uses crosswalks, looks both ways before crossing, or wears brightly colored clothing or reflective gear to identify them to motorists; yet, many of our members don't practice safety while crossing roads, which makes this daily experience very hazardous. These individuals hurry across roads in unmarked areas, step out into traffic without looking, and are wearing dark attire, ABUs or ACUs (which are designed to blend into their surroundings). The risky behaviors they practice make them a target for unsuspecting drivers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 2009 was the year with the lowest motorist fatalities since 1954 (34,000), a year when the U.S. population was half what it is today, and we had but one-third of the licensed drivers on the roads. This is quite an accomplishment, and reflects the hard work of safety professionals everywhere, as well as effective safety features in today's automobiles. Yet, while motorist fatalities have decreased steadily over the past 10 years, pedestrian fatalities have remained high. The National Safety Council reports that annually, 5,000 pedestrians are killed and 84,000 are injured by motorists. Florida's pedestrian fatality rate consistently exceeds the nation's by 25 percent in daylight hours and doubles the national rate in nighttime hours, leading to its label as worst in our country. Practicing safe crossing skills is essential if we want to better these state statistics and continue to return to work at MacDill AFB each day.

Curbing pedestrian fatality trends is everyone's responsibility - motorists share in this effort. Realizing we share the roads with more than just our automobiles is very important as we seek to limit pedestrian conflicts. Reducing distractions (like using cell phones, eating, or reviewing the day's notes), slowing down (it really is 25 mph in front of USCENTCOM!) and following other traffic laws (yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks) are ways we can help keep pedestrians safe as we get behind the wheel .
In closing, I urge each of you to consider the consequences of careless driving which injures or kills a fellow member of our MacDill community. The impact to yourself, to the organization, and to the rest of our base would be quite severe. Similarly, you owe it to yourself, your unit, and your family to act responsibly when walking or jogging near MacDill's roads. A little time spent thinking about, and adjusting your driving and walking habits on this busy base, will continue our strong pedestrian safety record. Be Safe!