Safety should be common

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Many Academy commuters have probably noticed what the Colorado State Patrol calls "full immersion," when they're out in full force across state highways, usually on weekends or during the holiday season.

If there is ever a time not to get caught speeding or texting or worse, driving while intoxicated, this is usually it.

You've also most likely noticed the digital warning signs across the state warning drivers of the state patrol's presence. If anything, few things work better at encouraging a driver to decrease his speed than the sight of a patrol car pulling someone else over for doing the same thing.

The idea that it takes a police presence to cause people like myself to keep their driving habits within the boundaries of the law is bothersome. Do we really need police immersion to urge people to drive safely? Shouldn't this be a commonly accepted practice?

The obvious answer is "yes," as safe driving should be a common practice, but we all know the answer to the former question is "yes" as well, and I think that's a sad indictment of the value we collectively place on safety.

It's one thing to have to cope with an unsafe situation on the local highways, but it strikes me as even more of an issue when we have to deal with it here, at the Academy. But we do.

In one case, I was nearly "T-Boned" while when the driver of a red corvette saw fit to breeze through the stop sign at the intersection at Academy Drive and Stadium Boulevard. In another case, there was recently a major accident when the driver of a vehicle traveling through the construction zone on Stadium Boulevard at a high rate of speed drove through a protective barrier.

Earlier this week, a teenage driver slammed his silver coupe into my garage door, causing major structural damage to the building and also to my neighbor's garage.

He told me was trying to avoid another car, but I didn't have to rely on my former security force experience to know that he was speeding. Avoiding another car backing out of a parking slot in an apartment complex should never result in thousands of dollars of damage.

Early last year on a snowy day, an SUV rolled over on Pine Drive. No doubt other minor and major vehicle accidents regularly occur on the Academy, but you would think that with all the safety messaging across the Defense Department, much less the Air Force and the Academy, service members, federal employees and civilian contractors, would be less prone to making unsafe decisions behind wheel of a moving vehicle. But we're not ... because we apparently don't absorb the message and that's one of the many reasons we have civilian and military police.

My common reaction when I see a security forces Airman here on a traffic stop is the same as it is off the installation when I see a Colorado Springs Police Department or Colorado State Patrol pull someone over: "Wow. Glad it's not me." I slow down and check my rearview mirror to see if the officer wants to stop me too. Why? Because I know I'm prone to making dumb decisions behind the wheel too. I might not use my cellphone behind the wheel, but I'm certainly prone to speeding.

As a former traffic radar instructor, I'm well-acquainted with the often absurd reasons drivers stopped for speeding or other infractions often give:
"I had my car on cruise control."
"I really have to be somewhere."
"My father is a colonel."
"I don't know what the speed limit is." (Unknown to most drivers, this reason is typically given by a driver stopped within spitting distance of a posted speed limit sign).

These reasons don't excuse the infraction, but we certainly like to find ways to get around our responsibility to drive safely.

I'd like to thank all 10th Security Forces Squadron Airmen and other local law enforcement officials who make it their constant duty to remind me of this responsibility.