Fort McCoy News March 25, 2016

Drivers: Guard against overcorrecting, rollovers

BY ART POWELL
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center

Driving off the road is bad enough, but overcorrecting only makes it worse.

"Overcorrecting is often indicative of running off the road and overreacting by jerking the wheel to get the vehicle back on the roadway," said Walt Beckman, Driving Directorate, U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center (USACRC). "It's usually due to inattentiveness, fatigue, or failing to maintain contact with the road in a curve."

Motorists who exit the roadway and then overcorrect create a loss-of-control event, which is a small but deadly component of the Army's overall accident numbers.

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According to data available from the USACRC for fiscal year 2015, loss of control was cited as a cause in seven fatal accidents, with speed and improperly entering a curve contributing to most.

"Those loss-of-control accidents accounted for roughly 15 percent of the 46 (private-motor-vehicle) fatalities recorded in fiscal 2015," Beckman explained. "Loss of control in almost all cases is associated with another causal factor, such as speed. In contrast, 17 of those 46 accidents, or 37 percent, were solely attributed to indiscipline, such as speed, failure to wear seat belts, or alcohol use."

Overcorrecting often leads to rollovers, which are the deadliest of vehicle crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rollovers comprise only a fraction of total accidents but cause a disproportionate number of fatalities.

For example, of the 9 million vehicle accidents reported in the United States during 2010, 35 percent of fatalities occurred during rollovers, which represented only 2.1 percent of total accidents. Nearly 70 percent of those victims were not wearing seat belts.

Army personnel can best protect themselves from rollover events by following established rules of the road.

"It's as easy as maintaining the speed limit, always wearing seat belts, never drinking and driving, eliminating distractions, and slowing down when the weather deteriorates," Beckman said. "Momentary lapses in judgment are usually what lead to the fatalities we see."

Drivers also can prevent chances of an accident by avoiding activities that cause distracted driving.

Some tips to avoid distracted driving include:

• Change your ways and recognize the activities that distract you, such as eating, talking on the phone, or changing a CD. Once you recognize these distractions, you can work to eliminate them.

• Make a plan. Know your route in advance, and make sure you clearly understand your directions. Check the weather and road conditions. If you're traveling with children, ensure they are properly buckled up and you have items to keep them occupied, such as books on tape or soft toys.

• Manage your time so you don't have to multitask or drive aggressively on the road.

• Don't let your drive time become your downtime. Driving isn't the time to catch up on phone calls, personal grooming, or dining.

• Scan the roadway to ensure you're aware of others at all times. Be prepared for other drivers to be unpredictable.

• Concentrate on driving. Make sure you're not upset or tired when getting on the road. This is not the time to have a serious or emotional conversation with your passengers.

• Pull over in a safe place if you need to do something that will take your eyes and/or mind off the road.

• Use technology sensibly.

• Take a refresher class. Everyone can pick up bad habits through the years. A driver-improvement course can raise your awareness and help you assess your driving behaviors.

• Buckle up, every trip and every time.

For driving safety in Wisconsin, motorists can find out more about road conditions and construction, accidents, and more by calling 511 or 866-511-9472, or by going online to www.511wi.gov. The 511WI site and phone line are managed by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and continuously updated. Online, people also can see traffic cameras, review weather reports, and view traffic maps. A smartphone app also is available.

For more information on driving safety, visit https://safety.army.mil. For more information about safety at Fort McCoy, call the Installation Safety Office at 608-388-3403.