Numbers don’t lie: Hands-on driving course saves lives

Stefano Marazzi, contracted driving instructor, performs a vehicle inspection as part of hands-on driving course, June 13, 2017 at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Marazzi evaluates both the vehicle and driver’s performance and provides the results to the 31st Fighter Wing safety office. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cary Smith)

Stefano Marazzi, contracted driving instructor, performs a vehicle inspection as part of hands-on driving course, June 13, 2017 at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Marazzi evaluates both the vehicle and driver’s performance and provides the results to the 31st Fighter Wing safety office. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cary Smith)

Stefano Marazzi and Giampiero Lauro, contracted driving instructors, evaluate tire wear as part of a vehicle inspection, June 13, 2017 at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Eleven different safety items were checked during the vehicle inspection before a hands-on driving test. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cary Smith)

Stefano Marazzi and Giampiero Lauro, contracted driving instructors, evaluate tire wear as part of a vehicle inspection, June 13, 2017 at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Eleven different safety items were checked during the vehicle inspection before a hands-on driving test. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cary Smith)

Airman 1st Class Brittany Jones, 31st Fighter Wing paralegal, is evaluated by Stefano Marazzi, contracted driving instructor, during her hands-on driving test, June 13, 2017 at Aviano Air Base, Italy. The driving test lasts 50 minutes and drivers are graded on 11 different evaluations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cary Smith)

Airman 1st Class Brittany Jones, 31st Fighter Wing paralegal, is evaluated by Stefano Marazzi, contracted driving instructor, during her hands-on driving test, June 13, 2017 at Aviano Air Base, Italy. The driving test lasts 50 minutes and drivers are graded on 11 different evaluations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cary Smith)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy --

For years the 31st Fighter Wing averaged one vehicle accident per day, because Team Aviano members were unaccustomed to driving in Italy.

 

Sadly, Aviano even lost an Airman to a major vehicle accident in 2013 and another in 2015.

 

Wing leaders decided enough was enough and put a team together to find and solve the problem. After studying data, the team learned the majority of vehicle accidents involved younger, less-experienced drivers. In October 2015, 31st FW leaders instituted a new program aimed at decreasing the number of accidents among these young drivers.

 

“The money we spend each year [for the program] is worth it if we can save at least one life,” said Col. Bryan Wolford, 31st FW vice commander.

 

The program starts with drivers attending a two-hour traffic safety brief. After the brief, eligible drivers must pass the traffic laws and road signs tests and receive their Allied Forces Italy license from the 31st Security Forces Squadron Pass and Registration office.

 

Next, the pass and registration office sends 31st FW Safety a list of people, under age 26, who received their license. These individuals must later complete the hands-on portion of the program, which includes a vehicle inspection, driving theory class and one-hour driving test.

 

“I look to see if the drivers are aware of their surroundings, enter intersections correctly, and most importantly, maintain an appropriate speed,” said Stefano Marazzi, contracted driving instructor.

 

Marazzi and the other driving instructors rate the vehicle and driving performance, then hand the results to the safety office so they can address any problems.

 

“If we can prevent someone from causing an accident then the hands-on driving program worked,” said Lia Scandola, 31st FW occupational safety and health specialist. “Currently, our young Airmen account for 68 percent of all vehicle accidents.”

 

Since October 2015, 708 Airmen 26 years old and younger have been trained. Of these trained Airmen, only three percent have been involved in an accident.

 

“The statistics speak for themselves,” said Wolford. “I hope we continue this [program] and save the next generation of Airmen.”

 

For more information about the program, safety brief, traffic tests or the hands-on portion, call 31st FW Safety at 632-4817.

(This article has been updated to clarify the number of auto accidents involving individuals who have received hands-on training.)