Summer safety and where you fit in

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- Summertime! Just that simple word stirs something deep in all of our souls. The summertime period gives us a chance to really live life. For nearly all of us, our love of the summer began during our adolescent years. Summertime was the period when we were “set free” from school.

While our love for summer is nearly as strong now as it was in our youth, our opportunities to get hurt are even greater and the consequences are more dramatic as well.

As kids, we had bicycles and perhaps a dirt bike or go-kart. Now we drive automobiles
on roads in Europe that might not have a speed limit. As adults, alcohol often becomes a beverage of choice at picnics, barbeques, etc. Unfortunately, some of us also choose to drive, partake in sports, swim, etc. while under the influence.

In short, we still love to “play hard” during the summer and our safety statistics bear witness that it is a more dangerous period for us.

Out of all this came the concept of the 101 Critical Days of Summer. This is the period where we Airmen put special emphasis on, to put it bluntly, being safe.

For us here at Aviano, Brig. Gen. Robert Yates, 31st Fighter Wing commander, kicked off our 101 Critical Days of Summer campaign last Thursday. Most of you know that the 101 Critical Days of Summer safety campaign runs until the end of Labor Day.

Our wing safety goals for the summer campaign are threefold. First, we all need to strive to ensure that we have zero losses of life or debilitating injuries. Since our wing stood up in the mid-1990s, we have had 24 fatalities and two permanent disabilities. The wing’s first fatality here at Aviano occurred in June 1994 (in the heart of the 101 Critical Days of Summer) when a bicycle rider (no helmet) was struck by a car. Our last fatality was in January of 2005 when one of our members lost control of her car.

My personal concern is the higher amount of long-distance driving our members undertake.

Our last permanent disability came as the result of a motorcycle wreck in October 2005 that left one of our team paralyzed from the waist down. Motorcycle riders, as you flock to the roads during the summer, please drive with caution.

Our second goal is to reduce the number of major motor vehicle accidents. The wing goal is to have 10 or less MMVAs during the 101 Critical Days of Summer. Alarmingly, last fiscal year our wing had 151 MMVAs. Of our 24 fatalities in the wing here at Aviano, nine involved motorcycles and 11 involved cars.

Finally, our last 101 Critical Days of Summer goal is to have two or less DUIs for the rest of the fiscal year. During last summer’s campaign, we had four DUIs. This is simply unacceptable.

This year, our DUIs are typified by a very high BAC and our members losing control of their vehicle.

I am so thankful that the objects we have been hitting are stationary objects versus oncoming traffic.

Summertime can be just as fun as when we were kids. With a little bit of common sense, we can avoid safety pitfalls, and have a wonderful and safe summer.