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Booze + black ice = DOA.

That equation could be the epithet for a young Sailor who had been home visiting his mom for 10 days in January. The airman died from head and neck injuries when, with a BAC of 0.22, he hit a patch of black ice. According to the mishap report, the unbelted victim was ejected partway through the driver's-side window.

After hitting the black ice, the vehicle yawed counter-clockwise, first striking a sign and then a snow bank. The car subsequently went airborne for 91 feet, before landing on its roof and sliding another 6 feet into a ditch. The mishap report notes these distances don't indicate speeding, but one can't help wondering if driving at the posted 55 mph was justified, given the road conditions.

The victim's BAC was more than twice the legal limit (0.10) in the upper Midwestern state where this crash occurred. However, alcohol wasn't the only substance found in his blood. The medical examiner also found levels of THC, the principal active component in marijuana. [In four command urinalysis tests during the previous nine months, the victim's results all had been negative.--Ed.]

What factors led to this mishap?

The victim failed to apply training, lessons learned, and sound ORM principles. Despite numerous squadron safety stand-downs that emphasized drinking and driving, he didn't recognize the risks that contributed to this mishap. Besides being under the influence of alcohol and drugs, he drove a vehicle that recently had been diagnosed with a power-steering problem. He also was wearing a cast on his right forearm as the result of an earlier injury.

Simply put, the victim exposed himself to unnecessary risk by choosing to drink and drive. He significantly reduced his chances of survival by choosing not to wear a seat belt.

During the three months before this mishap occurred, squadron workcenters had held individual training on driving safety and the risks involved with driving. Two safety stand-downs also had been held, both of which included lectures on the dangers of drinking and driving.

Following this tragedy, the commanding officer held quarters and talked about the Navy's seat-belt policy and the importance of applying sound ORM principles to both on- and off-duty activities. He also initiated a leave-letter program [a letter to next of kin, signed by the CO, asking their help in keeping the Sailor safe while he/she is home on leave] as recommended by Commander, Naval Safety Center.

The command's safety officer spoke to all workcenter supervisors and division chiefs on the importance of using more intrusive-leadership measures at the shop level. He urged them to direct more efforts to Sailors' off-duty activities.

The command already had a dial-a-ride program established, but the safety department redistributed cards to each workcenter and briefed each shop on the purpose of this program.

Other initiatives included a decision to hold dedicated safety stand-downs before SFARP (strike fighter advanced readiness program) training and to have Sailors complete a leave worksheet that focuses on trip planning and PMV safety. [Before Sailors and Marines go on liberty or leave, driving outside command travel limits, they are supposed to access the online, automated, risk-assessment tool known as TRiPS (travel risk planning system). This system helps them recognize--and avoid--the hazards they face on the highway. Navy personnel have access via Navy Knowledge Online, or NKO, at Click the link under "What's New," or select "Organizations" under the "Organizations & Communities" drop-down menu, then select "Naval Safety Center." You will need to have registered on NKO to access the site. Meanwhile, Marine Corps personnel have access via the Army Combat Readiness Center website at]

As noted by the commanding officer, the victim had survived a five-month deployment while working on the flight deck, the most dangerous environment in the world, only to come home and die because of poor headwork. "Zero tolerance of drug use, don't drink and drive, and wear your seat belt aren't policies intended to place unnecessary restrictions on us," he said. "They are designed to save lives."


* Traffic Safety Toolbox, motorvehicle/toolbox/default.htm

* Operational Risk Management, sourcefile/motorvehicleorm.ppt
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Date:Mar 22, 2009
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