Thank you for staying safe on Thanksgiving

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Richard Devereaux
  • 82nd Training Wing commander

Thanksgiving is one of our simpler holidays. It's a time for gathering with friends and family, sharing a meal and company, and giving thanks for all the blessings we have received over the year.

My wife Elizabeth and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your selfless service in support of our mission here at Sheppard. Much like the time when Pilgrims were huddled in the shoreline of a new found land, today is an important time in our nation's history. It is a time in which the security of our country has been threatened in ways it has never faced before. I am so thankful that we continue to have uniformed and civilian Airmen who are willing to stand up and be counted and serve our nation. Please take the time to thank your families this weekend for the love and support they provide, enabling you to serve our great Air Force.

In order to spend quality time with your families, I realize that many of you may be driving significant distances this weekend. Sadly, the statistics tell us that our highways can be as dangerous as any battleground in the Global War on Terror. Motor vehicle accidents continue to be the #1 killer of our Airmen. We at Sheppard have not been immune -- we've lost 3 Airmen over the past 12 months in vehicle accidents, 2 involving excessive alcohol.

The risk will remain high this weekend outside our gates. Consider the following statistics from last year's Thanksgiving weekend--just for Texas and Oklahoma:

· 34 fatal vehicle crashes
· 732 DUI arrests and 1,319 drivers involved in alcohol-related collisions
· 2,927 citations issued for not using seatbelts and 450 for not using proper child restraints
· 19,506 tickets written for speeding

Don't be one of these statistics this year! In fact, if you follow the below simple guidelines when you drive, you'll significantly reduce the odds that you'll be a motor vehicle fatality:

· Rest, rest, rest: Be responsible and get your rest before departing for a road trip. Yes, we're busy...very busy. But not so busy that we put ourselves and others in jeopardy. A plan to "tough it out and drive through" without stopping and sleeping is a bad plan. The overwhelming majority of fatigue-related crashes occur between 0200 and 0400. The price of a motel room is a bargain when compared to losing your life.

· Never, ever drink and drive: The only way you can ensure this is to never drink with your car keys in your possession. Hand over the keys before you drink and make 100% sure your plan is a solid one. Think about it...each time you choose to drink while still having the means to drive, you've already made a bad choice. You've chosen to put at risk not only your own life but the lives of every other person on the road. It violates everything we stand for as Airmen. And don't forget to be a true Wingman--if you see a fellow Airman making a bad choice, intervene before a mistake becomes a tragedy!

· Buckle up! No more excuses: Seatbelt use is the single most effective way to protect yourself, your family and your friends and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes. Failure to use them has unfortunately been a factor in several recent Sheppard fatalities and injuries. Who's not buckling up? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it's primarily men ages 18-34, backseat passengers and pickup truck operators. Make certain you and everyone in your vehicle are properly restrained before hitting the road (literally!).

· Slow Down: Don't exceed the speed limit and don't drive too fast for conditions, especially when the roads are slick

If you follow the above guidelines, chances are you'll be back here safe on Monday morning. Have a great Thanksgiving, and thank YOU again for your support of Team Sheppard and our mission!