Intervention - Defensive driving course reinforces good choices

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Ellen L. Hatfield
  • 349th AMW Public Affairs
Twenty-one Airmen completed a defensive driving course at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., each vowing to change one bad driving behavior. 

Offered the third Wednesday of every month, 'Alive at 25' is a driver intervention program aimed at the highest risk group of drivers, age 16 to 24. Tech. Sgt. E.V. Boggio, 60th Air Mobility Wing ground safety office, teaches the course from materials and information provided by National Safety Council resources. 

One element noticeably absent from this course is long lectures; instead, Sergeant Boggio encourages lively discussion and debate, and a revealing look at the driving behaviors of the class attendees. 

With the information at hand -- workbooks with driving vignettes and exercises, video clips presenting situations, and video testimonials from injured young drivers who made wrong decisions - we set out to make our driving journey safer. 

According to the NSC, there are 193,300,000 licensed drivers in the United States. Of these, 14 percent are in the 16-24 age group. Of 21,300,000 drivers involved in crashes, 27.5 percent were in the 16-24 age group. 

When asked for reasons why they think people in their age group are at such high risk, their list included: inattention, text messaging, tail-gating, inappropriate merging, outside distractions, other drivers (if we could only clear the roads!), bad drivers, slow drivers, lack of use of directional signals and "rubber-necking." 

The perception among the drivers in this class was that speed is safer; many attendees felt older, slower drivers were more dangerous than speeders on the freeway.
The 16-24 age group has the highest violation rates in the categories of speeding; driving while alcohol/drug impaired; ignoring traffic controls; improper passing; not yielding right-of-way and illegal turning. 

From frank discussion among the students in the class, the general consensus was that young drivers had more of these type of violations due to inexperience, thrill seeking, poor planning, risk taking, impatience, poor time management and wanting to party and have fun as factors. 

Drivers know all the risks. They listened to the statistics and discussed driving behavior and what they can do smarter. In the end, why do they forget all of it once they slide behind the wheel? 

According to my new young friends around the classroom; they feel indestructible and invincible; they think they know everything; they think they're quicker and more skillful in youth. And they just want to get where they are going. 

"In every vehicle mishap, there are actually three collisions," said Sergeant Boggio. The room was still and you could hear the wheels turning in heads as we tried to figure that one out. 

"There is the collision with a fixed object (like another car, a tree or wall); the collision of your body hitting the steering wheel or something else, and the collision of your heart hitting your ribcage," he said. 

That's a lot of pain, we thought. 

Think of the time lost: recovery time from injuries, time to attend mandatory defensive driving courses, time for regret and psychological counseling; time in jail, time to contemplate how it could have been done differently. 

Think of the money lost: the car repairs; insurance rates going up; hospital bills; court costs and fines, loss of wages. 

As Airmen, the consequences are greater. Your career could be jeopardized by your poor decision. According to Sergeant Boggio, the base commander can revoke your driving privileges both on and off base. You could sink your entire Air Force career. 

Think about it. What one bad driving behavior are you going to change today?