Avoid the Fatal Five

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- I have been stationed at Tyndall for almost two months. During September, in a span of two weeks, I received two speeding tickets. At first I had plenty of excuses, but the fact is, I was speeding. Not only was it dangerous, it was also selfish, and I know that I put the safety of others in jeopardy.

I joined the Air Force in February of this year, and I have seen and learned things that have strengthened my patriotism and sense of self-worth. I have a golden opportunity to do great things, and should always keep in mind that the decisions I make should always be wise.

Airmen around the world often make decisions that end their careers in the blink of an eye, such as driving under the influence, speeding, driving while distracted or fatigued or anything else that's dangerous and puts others' lives at risk.

These decisions not only impact themselves, but the people in their life as well. I have to always be aware that these mistakes would have even greater consequences if I had a family. These things are all avoidable and should never be done for the sake of convenience.

I recently completed a presentation about road safety that I will present to my squadron. While researching, my eyes have been opened to a lot of different information regarding safe and unsafe driving. I learned that every year, over 1.2 million people die in traffic-related incidents and the majority of these accidents are a result of doing one or more of the fatal five: speeding, driving under the influence, distractions, not wearing a seatbelt and fatigued driving.

A lot of people make mistakes on the road every day and as a result end up killing themselves and/or other people. All of these mistakes that we can make on the road are avoidable and we should always be cognizant of that fact.

In May of 1993, six months before I was born, my uncle was driving the speed limit with his wife and son down a highway in Louisiana and were hit by a drunk driver going over the speed limit.

Earlier that day a prisoner had escaped from a local hospital and an APB was put out for him.

A police officer in the area who was drunk at home while off-duty responded to the call; his wife tried to stop him, but he got the keys anyway. He began to drive on the same highway as my family at over 90 mph and collided into them head-on.

My aunt saw the cop before he hit them and put her arm up to protect my cousin from flying out of the vehicle. My cousin broke his neck on her arm and her arm broke; he died immediately. My uncle slammed his chest into the steering wheel and died a few minutes later.

The drunk driver died a few hours later in the hospital. My aunt is the only one that survived the accident. No one was wearing a seatbelt.

Although my uncle and cousin weren't wearing their seatbelts, their lives were taken by a drunk driver. I couldn't imagine living with myself knowing that I took the lives of other people. That is something that sticks with someone their entire life.

I don't want to become a statistic, so I must always look out for myself and others while driving to ultimately make it from A to B safely. I have so many opportunities to make safe decisions. I have no excuse for driving dangerously.

These past few weeks have been a learning experience, and I now have a better and clearer understanding of my priorities. I will continue to make a steadfast and concerted effort to make wise and fruitful decisions throughout my career.