One ring to end them all, safety officials reinforce rules regarding cell phone use on base

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Natasha E. Stannard
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
One ring!

That's all it takes for a driver to take their eyes off the road and onto a cell phone screen to read:

"Where r u?"

Then comes their much-needed reply and a hand comes off the wheel to respond with a quick "I'll b rt there."

Typing messages like this causes drivers to take their eyes off the road, which can lead the driver to ending up on the side of the road instead of being "rt there."

"If you're driving while texting, not only do you run the risk of driving off the road, but you also run the risk of running into someone," said Mark Rupert, 92nd Air Refueling Wing deputy chief of safety. "Just because you haven't had a mishap, doesn't mean you're doing things safely and that puts other Airmen and the mission at risk."

Mr. Rupert mentioned that many techniques are used to accomplish sending this and various other messages. A popular one is "kneeing," when the driver uses both hands to text while guiding the steering wheel with their knees. This can be accomplished successfully, but when it's not, the implications are far less satisfying then getting the message relayed.

When a driver uses both hands to text and not to drive, their attention is focused on texting - not the dangers surrounding them, he said.

"Using a cell phone while driving equates to driving under the influence and we know what can happen when people do that," Mr. Rupert said.

With this being a driving impairment and risk to everyone on the road, the Department of Defense and Washington state have made this a primary violation. This means that if a driver is using a device that isn't hands free, they can be pulled over for that infraction alone.

"You don't have to be speeding - they don't need any reason other than use of a handheld device to pull you over," he said.

"If we see anyone driving with a phone to their ear or driving with their head down to look at a cell phone or other device, it's notable cause to pull them over," said Master Sgt. Byron Ginn, 92nd Security Forces Squadron non commissioned officer-in-charge of operations support.

When an infraction is done on base, additional actions are taken.

"If we stop someone for this, we will issue traffic tickets, which they will have to present to their first sergeant or commander," Sergeant Ginn said.

It's important to keep in mind that cell phones aren't the only distracters that can get individuals pulled over when they use them without a hands-free device, Mr. Rupert added.

"When you get into the arena of distracted driving, there are so many forms such as applying makeup, using laptops, eating and more," Mr. Rupert said. "Ultimately the whole issue isn't just cell phone usage, but we do see a lot of it when we drive around and it scares me. I've done it before. I know how distracting it can be."