Joint Summer Safety Campaign Aims to Reduce Off-duty Deaths
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 22, 2009 As Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates pushes to get deployed troops whatever they need to succeed and return home safely, the services are gearing up campaigns to reduce deaths at home during the summer vacation season that kicks off today.
The period between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day typically sees a big spike in vehicle and recreational accidents, Defense Department safety officials note. People tend to spend more time outside enjoying off-duty activities, and they travel more. The unfortunate result is that accident rates increase, too.
Last year, 115 servicemembers died in off-duty accidents during the so-called “101 Critical Days of Summer.”
Motor vehicles remained the No. 1 cause of off-duty military deaths, despite broad safety awareness efforts, officials reported. Motor vehicle accidents claimed 88 servicemembers’ lives last summer.
Motorcycles were the biggest culprits, claiming 50 lives. Another 38 servicemembers died last summer in cars, trucks, sport utility vehicles and vans.
To reduce those statistics this year, the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard launched the 2009 Safe Summer campaign earlier this month. Safety chiefs are emphasizing the importance of everyone – servicemembers, civilians and family members alike – to make the campaign a success.
Just one loss is one too many, particularly for a military at war, said Brig. Gen. William T. Wolf, commander of the Army Combat Readiness and Safety Center at Fort Rucker, Ala.
“In combat, a soldier’s battle buddy is frequently the first line of defense when it comes to affecting a soldier’s decision-making process or reaction to a particular situation,” he said. “I am encouraging leaders, soldiers and family members to be a battle buddy this weekend to help ensure a great start to a fun, safe summer season.”
Rear Adm. Arthur J. Johnson, commander of the Navy Safety Center, urged the Navy and Marine Corps communities to arm themselves with the information they need to avoid becoming statistics.
“Make a plan to stay safe while enjoying recreational and off-duty events,” he said. “We’re counting on you to know the statistics so you don’t become one.”
“The enemy ‘risk’ can be defeated, but it takes teamwork,” said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Tod Glidewell, top noncommissioned officer at the USACR Safety Center. The team requires leaders, troops, civilians and family members alike, “both on and off duty, protecting our most precious resource to ensure ‘no one stands alone,’” he said.