U.S. Army Combat Readiness / Safety Center
Released in 1987, the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” illustrates the extreme lengths people will go through to get home during the holiday season.
In reality, most people aren’t as ambitious as the characters portrayed in the movie. But the unexpected could still await the thousands of Soldiers and Family Members who will soon trek home to celebrate the holidays.
No matter the mode of transportation, planning and preparation will make for a safer trip.
“Many of us will be traveling home for the holidays, and safety might be the furthest thing from our minds,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Harvey, director, U.S. Army Combat Readiness / Safety Center Driving Directorate. “However, safety is a state of mind that we all need to embrace constantly, especially while driving.”
Road conditions can drastically change during winter, with sunny days quickly giving way to an impromptu snowstorm. However, if individuals plan their trip beforehand and check the weather forecast, they should be prepared for Mother Nature.
“The Travel Risk Planning System is a great tool for leaders because it lets them know where their Soldiers are going and how they’re planning to get there,” Harvey said. “TRiPS affords the opportunity for discussion, and it’s important that everyone’s on the same page.”
In addition to filling out a TRiPS assessment, Harvey said it’s crucial that Soldiers conduct preventive maintenance checks and services on their private motor vehicles, same as they do on military vehicles.
“Winterizing a vehicle is often an afterthought,” he said. “But if Soldiers are proactive and ensure their vehicles are ready for frigid temperatures, snow, ice and other inclement weather conditions, they’re setting themselves up for success.”
Soldiers also should be mindful of the hazards of impaired and distracted driving. During 2010, more than 10,000 people died in alcohol-related driving crashes – one every 51 minutes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. On average, 25 people were killed in alcohol-related accidents every day during December that year.
“We reiterate don’t drink and drive, yet Soldiers are dying because they choose to drive impaired,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Richard D. Stidley, USACR / Safety Center. “Doing the right thing on duty should be carried over to our off-duty activities. There’s not an on-and-off switch associated with safety.”
Distracted driving is an emerging trend that’s plaguing America’s roadways. During 2011, according to NHTSA, 3,331 people were killed in distracted driving crashes, up from 3,267 reported in 2010.
“Drivers have their hands full with driving safely and responsibly,” Harvey said. “With distractions like texting, manipulating a GPS or anything that diverts a driver’s attention from the road and other motorists, the chance of a crash happening greatly increases.”
“Soldiers learn teamwork and use it every day on duty,” Stidley said. “It’s my hope that they use it off duty as well, to protect themselves and their loved ones as they hit the road this holiday season.”