2014-03-28 / Spectrum

Rising temperatures, rising risks

Spring is in the air, and warmer weather brings people out of their homes and onto the roadways in greater numbers.

Sadly, among those taking to the streets in spring and summer are drivers who had one – or several – drinks too many. Our own military police have seen the annual trend begin, with a handful of driving under the influence arrests in recent weeks. But this issue is not Fort Gordon’s issue alone.

When the weather gets warmer, America’s roads become more dangerous. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show that the number of highway fatalities begins a gradual rise at the start of the year, peaking during the months of July, August and September before starting to taper off. Each year, it’s like clockwork; when the mercury rises, so does the number of deaths on the road.

And the mercury has started to rise.

Perhaps owing to how far the mercury rises in our area, NHTSA figures show Georgia ranked 10th among states in the number of alcohol-impaired fatalities during 2012, with 301. That number represented an 11 percent rise from 2011 figures. Figures for 2013 were unavailable.

Here are a few more sobering figures, from Mothers Against Drunk Driving:

- On average, one in three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime

- Every day in America, another 28 people die as a result of drunk driving crashes.

- In fatal crashes in 2011, the highest percentage of drunk drivers was for drivers ages 21 to 24 (32 percent), followed by ages 25 to 34 (30 percent) and 35 to 44 (24 percent). This span of age groups represents the majority of military personnel.

- An average drunk driver has driven drunk 80 times before first arrest.

These facts almost make the annual rise in accidents and drunk driving seem inevitable. It’s not. Engaged, detail oriented, caring leaders can help members of their units avoid adding to these statistics.

We’re not just talking about the regular recitation of bland, memorized safety briefings, although a good discussion of the perils of drunk driving should be part of every leader’s anti-DUI kitbag. But smart leaders don’t just tell their subordinates not to drink and drive. They educate them on the alternatives, and they create alternatives when none exist.

Good leaders make certain their troops know how to get home safely. They make certain every service member has a number to call for a ride. They provide information about public transportation. They plan events with built-in safeguards to make sure no one drives impaired. They make sure designated drivers are part of every activity. And, most important, good leaders know their troops well, and they use that knowledge to pinpoint risks and eliminate them.

Good weather is coming. Good times are ahead. And good leaders can make them safe.

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