They keep our country safe by doing search & rescue, anti-submarine missions and patrolling the seas for illegal narcotics. On Sunday, I had the privilege to meet with 150 members of The Jaguars of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron Six Zero (HSM-60) at Mayport Naval Station to discuss the dangers and consequences of distracted driving. This was part of the Squadron’s periodic safety training standdowns, and we were pleased to participate through Terrell Hogan’s For the Workforce efforts against distracted driving.
The helicopter pilots, air crewmen, maintenance and administrative personnel who comprise HSM-60 are well-trained. They have many systems in place to help them do their jobs proficiently and safely in protecting our country. There is comfort in knowing that, when they are doing that important work for the Nation, they are working with safety-conscious co-workers. They have high levels of training, continuous review and evaluation.
The presentation made the point that, when HSM-60 sailors leave Mayport and venture out onto the highways, things are different. There they share the road with other drivers, and they can’t count on those drivers having that high level of training and safety standards – in fact we know they don’t. What little training they had was often long ago, and almost never dealt with the dangers of distracted driving. In addition, cars today function as mobile offices and social connection headquarters. With the convenience of smartphones and dashboard technology, many drivers are distracted by their devices – whether it’s texting, surfing or talking on the phone.
It puts all of us sharing the road with distracted drivers at risk. In 2013, more than 3,000 people died and 424,000 were injured in distracted driving-related crashes on US roadways.
While many know about the dangers of texting and driving, some falsely believe talking on the phone is still safe. It’s not. And, driving hands-free isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either. Science shows that when our brains are on the phone – even on speaker – they’re still distracted. Our brains do not actually multi-task; they attention switch. When we’re listening to sentences or formulating responses, sections of our brain that should be focusing on driving leave the job. When behind the wheel, the safest approach is to put away the phone and make driving the number one priority, getting safely to your destination with no distractions. And, doing that does one more very important thing: it keeps you alert and focused so you are prepared to perceive and react to the mistakes other drivers make.
One text or call can wreck it all. That’s the training point we made to the Jaguars of HSM-60, and awareness of the dangers of distracted driving is key to making our roadways safer for everyone – especially today.