Summer Activities Call for Precautions, Official Says
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 22, 2012 As summer approaches, Defense Department officials want military members and civilian employees to think about safety during their recreational pursuits, said Joseph J. Angello Jr., the department’s director of operational readiness and safety.
Whether taking a road trip, swimming, or riding a motorcycle, Angello wants service members, their family members and DOD civilians to be aware of risks associated with such activities.
Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta “wants everyone to be safe,” Angello pointed out.
Highway fatalities, particularly from motorcycle accidents, make up the majority of summertime deaths, he said. However, he added, recent trends indicate that the number of summer fatalities is decreasing. For example, last summer’s 92 deaths between Memorial Day and Labor Day was less than the 124 summertime fatalities in 2008.
Fatal summertime accidents are a tragedy, not only for the deceased but also for “their families, friends, and their units,” Angello said.
Other major risks, he said, include driving when tired or distracted. Driving demands concentration and people need to drive defensively and undistracted, he added.
“During the summer, people are [changing duty stations], traveling, seeing family, taking vacations,” Angello said. “These are supposed to be good times and relaxing. But there are risks on the road.”
Most driving precautions are based on common sense, he said, such as always using seat belts -- even when driving on short trips -- and wearing proper attire, including helmets and protective gear, when operating a motorcycle or an all-terrain vehicle.
Other summer safety basics include going swimming with a friend, and only when lifeguards are on duty, he said.
“Everyone should know how to swim,” he said, adding that the military services had 13 swimming deaths last year.
But regardless of the summertime activity, using the buddy system is important, he said, especially to prevent drinking while driving.
“If we’re watching out for each other and your buddy is drinking, and he’s [about to drive], take away his keys,” Angello said. “We’ve got to remember that. He’s your co-pilot, your battle buddy. You’ve got to take care of each other, plan, think ahead, and take responsibility.”
At outings where alcohol is going to be served, Angello says to make a plan by choosing a designated driver or plan to take a cab ahead of time, and drink in moderation. And don’t drink when driving, operating motorcycles or ATVs, jet skis or swimming where undertows exist, he said.
“Alcohol influences you, slows you down, your balance and your senses,” Angello said. “Your perceptions are distorted -- so be aware of it.”
Using “the military mindset” to realize potential risks in advance is critical to staying safe while participating in summertime activities, he said, noting some situations call for personal courage in the presence of peers when faced with risky situations.
“You’ve got to have the foresight to say, ‘If I don’t say no, I might not get the opportunity again [because] I might be dead,’” Angello said.
Making smart responsible decisions helps to prevent personal tragedy and grief to loved ones, he said.
”You’ve got responsibilities in life to those you love, and to this nation … to defend it for your family and for yourself,” Angello said. “The life you save is not just your own. There are people who love and depend on you.”