Leaders stress winter safety

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Scott Elliott
  • Air Force Print News
With the winter season firmly in place and bitter weather gripping the nation, the service's senior leaders urge Air Force members to be safety-conscious.

"The mission, travel, weather and distractions caused by family separations all factor into increased risk," said Secretary of the Air Force Dr. James G. Roche and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper in a recent message to airmen.

Because the leading cause of Air Force fatalities each year is motor vehicle accidents, Roche and Jumper urged extra caution on the road.

"Please be careful as you travel this season," they said. "When driving in winter conditions, look out for one another, wear seatbelts, and most important, don't drink and drive.

"You are our nation's most valuable resource. Additionally, you are irreplaceable to your friends and family, your squadron and your Air Force."

According to Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. Hess, Air Force chief of safety, the worst current trend is motor vehicle-related deaths among junior enlisted and officers.

"(A lot) of our airmen are dying alone, at night, along the road," he said.

About 80 percent of those killed on the road in the past year were between ages 18 and 26. Hess said common traits shared by motorcycle and four-wheeled vehicle accidents included alcohol, excessive speed and nighttime driving.

Simple risk management could eliminate much of the annual suffering, the chief of safety said.

"Risk management is simply a matter of balancing risks against the benefits to be gained in any situation, and then choosing the most effective course of action," Hess said. "It's really about taking a look at what you're about to do to see if there are hazards, then taking steps to eliminate them."

Harsh winter weather is directly attributable to other unsafe conditions, such as slips and falls, exposure injuries and asphyxiation caused by faulty heating systems.

Roche and Jumper said all airmen should recognize their personal value to Air Force mission accomplishment.

"The mission is our No. 1 priority, and you are needed for mission success," they said. "Our mission is adversely affected if you are injured in an accident. We need to make certain that everyone is mindful of their personal risk whether engaged in operations, training, or off duty.

"Realize the 'risk' decisions you make today have a lasting impact on those you love and those who depend on you," Roche and Jumper said. "Your family and country need you to weigh the risks carefully in all that you do ... on or off duty."

Roche and Jumper urged all airmen to "be determined to make safe decisions during this winter season -- it's important for you, your family, the Air Force, and your country."