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JBLM Directorate of Emergency Services

Speeding top safety issue

Northwest Guardian

Published: 02:21PM May 31st, 2018
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Northwest Guardian

Service members cross Pendleton Avenue at 2nd Division Drive during the lunchtime commute Wednesday. There were five vehicle versus pedestrian accidents on JBLM in 2017.

Summer safety tips

• Drivers in or near base housing neighborhoods must adhere to posted speed limits.

• Don’t become distracted while driving; keep both hands on the wheel.

• Don’t use your cellphone to call or text while driving.

• Watch for children playing in or near the street.

• Be aware that children or adults could be near the street in the early morning or at dusk when visibility is low.

• Bicyclists may ride on the sidewalk, if they follow pedestrian rules.

• Always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle, skateboard, motorcycle or other wheeled vehicle.

As area schools let out for the summer break, safety is a big concern for base housing neighborhoods on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, especially when it comes to children, bicyclists and pedestrians.

The two biggest problems, when drivers are added into that equation, are speeding and distracted driving, according to JBLM safety experts.

“Speeding is the number one issue, but that goes hand-in-hand with distracted driving or distracted pedestrians — walking into the side of a car — the main thing is to pay attention to what you are doing,” said Maj. Jolene Ayres, provost marshal for JBLM’s Directorate of Emergency Services.

There were five pedestrian versus vehicle crashes on the installation during the 2017 to 2018 school year, Ayres said; however, she added, the fault was split pretty evenly between distracted drivers and pedestrians.

Ayres said cellphones are a major distraction for drivers and pedestrians. She recalled one incident a few months ago when an individual was talking on a cellphone and attempting to walk across a street, between two vehicles.

“He wasn’t paying attention and did a barrel roll over the top of one of the vehicles,” she said, adding that although the person is OK now, it could have been a lot worse.

As for distracted drivers, JBLM safety officers began cell phone enforcement patrols earlier this year and now average about a dozen tickets each week.

“That’s down a lot from when we started,” Ayres said.

Speeding tickets also are at a high at this time of year.

“We give hundreds and hundreds of speeding tickets,” Ayres said. “There are lots of aggressive drivers, especially on the straightaways.”

There really isn’t one category of driver who’s worse with speeding, she said; it can be service members, spouses, family members or retirees..

One deterrent to speeding set to be added in coming weeks and months is the side of the road electronic speed detectors. These devices let a driver know what their speed is and what the posted limit is.

“We finally got some money to buy some of those, and so we are flipping through the catalogs looking for the ones we want,” Ayres said.

Another safety-related infraction that could lead to a ticket or a talk up the chain of command is not wearing a helmet when bicycle riding. Beyond that, accidents without a helmet can be painful if the unexpected occurs, Ayres said.

“It’s important to wear a helmet when you are riding anything on wheels, a bicycle or skateboard,” she said. “We have people not wearing helmets and losing some skin when they crash. That’s not fun.”

Bicyclists also need to be aware that although it may seem safer to ride on the sidewalk, that’s not the place for a bicycle, Ayres said.

“It’s especially not safe for a pedestrian (who) gets plowed into by a bicyclist on the sidewalk.”

However, bicyclists are allowed to ride on the sidewalks at JBLM, as long as they follow pedestrian rules.

Joy Fowlkes, safety director in the JBLM Safety office, also stressed the importance of bicycle safety and wearing a helmet when riding.

And, she said, it’s important for parents to watch out for their small children and not allow them to play or ride bikes in the street.

“A lot of times parents think it’s safe because they are on the base and they don’t think the same dangers are here as they are off the installation,” Fowlkes said. “But, it’s important to remember that the same dangers exist here and anything that can happen off base can and has happened here.”