Leadership's responsibility to ensure safe driving

  • Published
  • By Maj. Brian Blanchard
  • 56th Medical Group
The past several months have not been kind to government vehicles. A rash of government-owned vehicle accidents has plagued the base and the majority of these could have been prevented.

Causative factors include inattentiveness, lack of respect for government property, failure to properly plan ahead, and an overall lack of situational awareness. It is our responsibility as Air Force leaders to instill situational awareness in everyone around us. Additionally, it lies within our realm of responsibility to help others learn respect, properly plan ahead, and take necessary precautions in order to avoid future accidents.

Many of the accidents have occurred during nighttime driving activities. Such accidents can be avoided if necessary precautions are taken to avoid routine night-driving pitfalls. While driving around Phoenix at night, do you find it difficult to see the road ahead? Have you wondered why night blindness seems worse in rural areas compared to more populated areas? Do you find it difficult to navigate your way home in the early morning or after work near dusk?

If so, you are not alone. This affects many drivers in the Luke Air Force Base area and is one of the most common complaints during routine eye exams. Here are a few mitigating factors that can cause poor night vision:

  ·Certain areas around the base don't have many street lamps and lane reflectors that people are normally accustomed to. As a result, the reduced lighting diminishes the ability to see street lane width and depth, and can lead to poor anticipation of road conditions and turns.

  ·The eyes naturally adapt to a darker environment. Dark adaptation is both an advantage and disadvantage. The advantage we gain is that after a brief period of adaptation (absent of bright light) the human eye senses greater shades of grey and black, perfect for low light level conditions. The disadvantage is dark adapted eyes are extremely sensitive to light and any advantages are promptly eliminated when any brief flash of light (headlights) bleaches visual photoreceptors and temporarily "blinds" vision. Care should also be taken while working outside at night. Ample time should be given to adjust to different lighting conditions before performing a job, especially during critical tasks that require detailed vision. 

  ·An individual may have blurred vision. For those currently wearing glasses, a small amount of uncorrected vision may significantly degrade vision at night. Your local eye care professional may give you a prescription that will help you see better at night. We recommend eye exams every two years for spectacle wearers and annual exams for contact lens wearers. If you don't currently wear glasses it is recommended to get an exam every three to four years.

Despite these factors, there are a few things that can be done to improve night vision:

1. Eat healthy. Poor night vision can be attributed to a deficiency of Vitamin A, Foods rich in Vitamin A include spinach, carrots, cantaloupes, apricots, dairy products, egg yolks, fish liver oil (omega 3 fatty acids), and liver. Note: Pregnant women should consult a physician before taking Vitamin A supplements because of the link between this vitamin and birth defects. 

2. Quit smoking. Studies have shown smoking contributes to poorer night vision. One study found that temporary abstinence from smoking could sharply improve the night vision of smokers. Several studies found that smokers are more likely to have automobile accidents than nonsmokers. Another study reported that, among people who had automobile accidents, smokers were more than two times as likely to have accidents at night.

3. Use high beams when safe. High beams will help the driver to see the road farther ahead and can effectively increase how well you see. Use them with caution and remember to turn off high beams when approaching opposing traffic. 

4. Maximize car safety. Use driver safety tips already promoted by your local safety office. Make sure visibility is clear around the vehicle windows before driving, replace old wiper blades, drive defensively and in a speed consistent with road and lighting conditions, check tires for proper pressure and tread life, and check brakes. Keep the windshield and headlights clean as this will improve the view to the outside.

By following these tips, driving comfort in and around the Phoenix-metro area should be enhanced. To make an eye appointment, call (623) 856-7965.

It is our responsibility to make an extra effort to bring about a safe work place, and encourage safe thinking and driving. Also, it is our responsibility as leaders to educate those around us to give them the tools necessary to make more informed decisions. It is important that leaders set aside enough time to provide adequate mentorship in the workplace. Additionally, an overall deep level of respect for both people and property alike shown by a leader can be contagious. It is time to lengthen our stride in regard to effective leadership principles and techniques. If we do, we can positively impact the lives of those around us and ultimately leave the Air Force better than we found it.