Safety... again?

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Adrienne Williams, 36th Wing Chief of Safety
  • 36th Wing Safety

Safety again? Really? It seems that is all we hear...Be safe. Be smart. Wear your reflective belt. Do not run on the roadways with headphones. Wear your Department of Transportation approved helmet when riding your bike. No swimming outside of the marked areas...shall I go on? No need to; I honestly think you get the point.

Let me ask you this: Would you be caught out in a torrential downpour without an umbrella dressed in your Sunday best? Probably not, since chances are you checked the weather and prepared for the possible water onslaught. In fact, the majority of people would never think of going out of the house (especially here on Guam) if it was threatening to rain without some kind of an umbrella for protection. Unfortunately, that is not always the case and there are always those token few who end up drenched. To them, being wet is nothing to be concerned about. Why drag the umbrella along when it's just dead weight? They honestly see no need for the umbrella safety precaution--they can withstand the rainstorm.

However, not every rainstorm is the same and one day even the naysayers will be caught off guard, desperately needing that umbrella. Just like the other safety precautions mentioned above, something much more serious than getting soaked may happen if you choose to toss safety aside.

In all seriousness, have you ever stopped to think about why these safety measures are in place? Have you ever asked, "Why safety?" I am going to go out on a limb and say probably not. Safety is actually fairly simple. It boils down to common sense or, more precisely, the "Think before you act motto." I ask you to take a minute to ponder why we have so many safety precautions. It's important to understand that these precautions are not there to harass or preclude you from enjoying life. They do indeed have a purpose, and in fact, many of these precautions are actually written in blood. Regrettably, it has taken a loss of life or serious injury for the majority of these safety measures to come about. There is someone somewhere who now wishes they had taken into account safety precautions associated with the activity that seriously injured or disabled them for life.

I ask again, "Why safety?" Take for instance reflective gear. Airmen are constantly being reminded to wear their reflective belts. There is a reason behind this requirement; recent studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation show that an estimated 68 percent of pedestrian vehicle mishaps occur at night. Cornell University's Extensive Program report, "Action Wear: Clothing for Fitness," illustrates the fact that pedestrians wearing dark-colored clothing such as blue or black will not be seen by an oncoming vehicle until approximately 55 feet away. Now consider this, if the vehicle is traveling at 60 mph, it will take it roughly 260 feet to stop. If the driver does not see you until you are 55 feet in front of them, chances are they haven't begun to slow down, stop or turn to avoid hitting you. According to the National Safety Council reports, the probability of being struck and possibly killed as a pedestrian increases 1,110percent after dark. You really want to gamble with those odds? Why become a statistic when all you have to do is wear something, anything reflective so the oncoming vehicle sees you in time to react accordingly, especially if you are on the roadway.

Another big issue of debate is running with your head phones on while sharing the road with vehicles. So let's put the matter into perspective. There you are running in-synch with your favorite country-western hit, hard metal song, latest rap release or maybe an in-depth analysis of the latest financial reports from Wall Street. You might easily fail to hear an approaching automobile. Take the matter a step further and imagine that the vehicle does not see you, that they themselves are distracted for whatever reason. Add in the fact that you both happen to be on the same side of the road heading in the same direction. Now answer this, Who is bigger? The runner or the car? Who has the better chance of survival if a collision occurs of any magnitude? It's fairly straight forward: the car wins every time. 5,000 pounds of metal beats 150 pounds of flesh--every time. Recently, the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, Md., published new research stating that serious injuries to pedestrians listening to headphones have increased by 300percent in the last six years. To highlight the seriousness even further, the university study found out that approximately 70percent of those accidents resulted in fatalities. So I ask you again, why chance it? Why put your well being or even your life in the hands of a complete stranger behind a moving vehicle?

One last item to discuss: bicycle helmets. They were not required when we were kids so why the big push now? I would venture to say there are more vehicles on the road and bicycles are much faster and fancier than they were 20 years ago. Regardless of the reasons, the requirement developed research has shown that they do provide a level of needed protection. According to the Children's Safety Network, roughly 62 percent of the bicycle mishap fatalities resulted from head injuries. In a recent study conducted by West Virginia University Department of Emergency Medicine, it was stated the head injury is the leading cause of disability from bicycle crashes. The study also mentioned that 7 percent of all traumatic brain injuries that happen in the U.S. are caused by bicycle crashes. To sum it up: wear a helmet. Helmets afford you an additional level of protection. It is also important to make sure your children are wearing their helmets--let me add-- properly. If the helmet does not fit or is worn wrong, it cannot do its job and provides little to no safety value. It is like wearing your running shoes on the wrong feet--worthless.

Key words: common sense. Think before you act. Is the risk you are about to take really worth it? Chances are, the answer is no. So put your reflective gear on when you are out at night, take the head phones off when you are on the roadways and wear the proper fitting helmet when you ride your bicycle. Let me close with this quote I found on the YouTube channel of Sarah Jane O'Brien, a woman who works in safety. "Safety is not a waste of time if you do not want to waste your life."
Safety again? Really? Yes, is that simple--Your Life, Your Choice--is it worth the gamble?