'It' can happen in a blink of an eye

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Mona Ferrell
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
It can happen in a blink of an eye.

The car in front of you stops suddenly; the reason doesn't matter -- maybe the driver was talking on a cell phone and wasn't paying attention, maybe there was child who became disruptive in the backseat and the parent had to intervene - but within a split second you're hitting the brakes and finding yourself in the middle of a traffic accident.

The result - you're seriously injured and your car is totaled. But the losses don't stop there. Because of the vehicle damage and injuries you sustained, the Air Force also loses productivity and man-hours. Someone else has to take on your duties in an already stressed work environment because you're on convalescent leave.

Worse yet, the accident could even result in death, leaving lasting and irreparable damage to your family members, friends and coworkers.

According to the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration, "In 2003, motor vehicle traffic crashes were the leading cause of death for those between the ages of 4 through 34." While this fact is alarming on its own because of the statistics on the loss of young lives, "motor vehicle traffic crashes ranked third overall in terms of the years of life lost, behind only cancer and heart disease."

But let's look beyond the statistics. I recently received a wakeup while on my way to work. I witnessed a multiple-car accident and was extremely close to being a part of it myself. Luckily, I was able to swerve out of the way by going into the next lane, however several other people weren't as fortunate.

While the injuries resulting from the accident did not seem to be life-threatening, the lasting effects remain the same for all involved. In addition to those injured having to go the hospital, the cars were damaged and everyone involved in the accident most likely were unable to report to work; instead spending much of their day on the phone dealing with an insurance agent.

I'm sure none of the people involved in the accident considered they would be in an accident; really who does? However, there are some things we can all do to help reduce the chances of being in a vehicular mishap.

-- Slow down and obey the posted speed limits - Everyone has to be somewhere, but typically racing from one speed light to the next doesn't get you there any quicker.

-- Follow the recommended safe distance behind the driver in front of you - Use the "two-second rule" to ensure sufficient space if a sudden stop is required; add a few seconds at night or in the rain.

-- Eliminate cell phone use while driving - Driving while talking on a cell phone is known to be a distraction for the driver, and according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, inattentive driving accounted for 6.4 percent of crash fatalities in 2003.

-- Drive defensively - Keep your eyes on the road and your overall driving awareness up.

Just as in the accident I witnessed, it only takes a mistake by one person to cause a vehicular mishap, and that person doesn't have to be you. I can't think of anyone who would get behind the wheel of a car knowing that "today is the day." But ... it can happen in a blink of an eye; take every precaution to help ensure "it" doesn't happen to you.