• Published
  • AETC Director of Safetry
Is the glass half empty or half full?

As we reached the halfway point of fiscal 2009 on April 1, there are certainly two ways to look at this question as far as mishap prevention is concerned.

One who views the world via a glass-half-empty lens might emphasize the five fatalities before April 1 and point out that this is nearly twice as many as at the same point last year. A glass-half-full type person might instead highlight the year isn't over, and champion that we have an opportunity to rebound and make 2009 one of the best safety years yet.

There is truth in both perspectives.

Certainly, we need to look at what's happened so far and learn from mistakes.

  • On Oct. 2, a 25-year-old Airman was riding his bike, and died in a hit and run mishap. He was wearing all of his protective gear.
  • Also on Oct. 2, a 26-year-old staff sergeant suffered fatal injuries when he lost control of his vehicle, left the road, struck a utility pole, and then rotated and struck a tree. He had been driving too fast, and he had been drinking.
  • On Jan. 10, a 20-year-old airman first class attended a party with a friend and became intoxicated. Although the underage drinking put the Airman in a terrible predicament, he did turn his keys over to his friend. Unfortunately, the friend had been drinking also, and while driving from the party, rolled the vehicle, ejecting the Airman who then sustained fatal injuries. The friend was charged with intoxication manslaughter.
  • On Feb. 28, a young couple was traveling to a family funeral. The husband lost control of their vehicle while crossing an icy bridge, and an approaching semi-tractor prompted both to jump out of the disabled vehicle. The husband survived, but the truck killed his wife, a 23-year-old senior airman.
  • On March 27, a 22-year-old Airman was a passenger in a vehicle in which the driver lost control because of hydroplaning. Another vehicle struck theirs, and the Airman sustained fatal internal injuries.
The pessimist might chalk these mishaps up to bad luck and conclude, "Stuff happens and there's not much anyone can do about it." The optimist will look deeper and discover some things that stand out in these mishaps. All five Airmen who died were between the ages of 20 and 26. In two of the cases, alcohol was involved. In three of the mishaps, the Airmen who died were the passengers in the vehicles.

Remove alcohol and driving too fast for conditions, and four of the five mishaps would have probably never happened.

Also, in four of the five cases, the Airmen who perished weren't alone. Their wingmen could have made a difference. That's why we all need to get into wingman mode, and realize each one of us has the ability to save lives. Your buddy doesn't buckle up? Call him on it. You and your friends plan to go out partying? Have a designated driver or take a taxi. A co-worker wants to ride a motorcycle? Encourage him to wear protective gear and drive within his skill level and the law.

Yes, it's the halfway point. And whether you're a glass-half-empty type person or a glass-half-full type, one thing is for sure: You can't approach safety halfway. It needs your full attention whether at work or at play.

Let's gear up for a strong second half.