Safety office monitors seat belts, cell phones

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Sitting in the cab of the ground safety truck, Staff Sgt. Ed Lecuyer, 16th Special Operations Wing Safety Office, observes motorists, watches for seat belt and cell phone use violators. 

Using a counter, he marks off each vehicle. When a car enters with occupants who aren’t wearing seat belts, he makes a notation on a chart.

“We’re trying to make ourselves visible,” said Sergeant Lecuyer, 16th SOW Safety Office NCO in charge of safety inspection and assessments. “We’re flying the safety flag so that people will be aware of what they’re doing.”

On May 9, 77 motorists drove into the commissary parking lot and 12 weren’t wearing seat belts. There were no cell phone violators that morning.

“We’d like them (drivers) to think before they act,” said Ken Morris, 16th SOW ground safety manager. “We want them to recognize the potentials of safety violations.”

Col. Norman Brozenick Jr., 16th SOW commander, asked the ground safety office for a quarterly survey of seat belt and hands-free cell phone users on base. Of 841 motorists observed, 41 weren’t seat belt compliant and six were using cell phones without a hands-free apparatus.

The state of Florida passed a primary seat belt law July 1, 2005. This requires that the driver and all occupants under the age of 18 years old buckle up.

Law enforcement officers may now stop any vehicle when anyone under the age of 18 years old isn’t wearing a seat belt. The driver is then held responsible for every passenger under the legal age.

Currently, there’s no state law for hands-free cell phone use while driving. On Feb. 27, the Department of Defense’s Joint Traffic Guidance Policy went into effect, mandating that drivers cannot talk on cell phones while driving on an Air Force installations, unless it’s with a hands-free device.

“We shouldn’t have to monitor them,” said Mr. Morris. “But it’s a positive thing if we can get people to think about what they’re doing.”

The safety office will continue to monitor seat belt, cell phone usage quarterly.