News: Driving distracted dangerous, results in severe consequences
Story by Lance Cpl. Brianna Christensen
CAMP FOSTER, Japan - Narrow lanes, large buses, crowded streets and school zones make it important for drivers to pay close attention and maintain their focus when driving on the roads of Okinawa.
The III Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Corps Installations Pacific safety offices are taking steps to ensure service members are focused on driving by implementing the distracted and impaired driving campaign.
“Inattentive driving is a major cause of accidents on Okinawa,” said Lawrence J. Jacobs Jr., the safety director for MCIPAC and Marine Corps Base Camp Butler. “One of the biggest causes of inattentive driving is texting, so it is important to enforce that texting or talking on the phone while driving is illegal.”
However, distracted driving does not always mean the driver is on their phone.
“While texting is a major cause of inattentive driving, (the Provost Marshal’s Office) will often see people eating, reading or putting on makeup while they are driving,” said Jacobs. “Anything that takes drivers’ eyes off the road is considered being distracted.”
If a driver is pulled over for any kind of distracted driving, they will receive a citation, according to Staff Sgt. Robert J. Hubauer, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of accident investigation PMO, MCB Camp Butler. Once they have received a citation, their command will take punitive action, and they will have to attend traffic court, where a judge will determine their punishment.
“The judge can choose to assign a variety of punishments depending on the severity of the offense,” said Hubauer. “Some receive a ticket and have to attend a driver’s course, while others will have their driver’s license suspended or revoked.”
One of the punishments given by traffic court is the remedial driver’s course.
“Individuals are assigned to attend this course by the base inspector or a judge during traffic court,” said Paul E. Green, an instructor for the course. “People may volunteer to take the course through the base safety office, but it is mainly for individuals who receive traffic citations.”
The course is meant to refresh participants on the rules of the road and some of the things they need to look out for, according to Aaron Davis, the supervisory occupational safety and health specialist with the MCIPAC safety office and an instructor for the course.
“The purpose of this course is to practice good driving habits,” said Davis. “We want people to realize why they were sent to the course and make sure they do not drive distracted again.”
The course also covers driving under the influence, unsafe reversing, moving violations, running stop signs, and other reasons participants are attending.
“When I teach the course, I start by asking every participant why they are there,” said Davis. “I write all of the answers on a board and check them off as the course goes on. I want to ensure I cover every topic they are there for.”
The course teaches the participants the correct way to operate a vehicle, according to Davis.
“The most important thing we are trying to do is show everyone the risks of driving distracted,” said Green. “We share the road with other drivers, and we are reminding the students of this course that driving safe is everyone’s responsibility.”