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The need for speed

F. E. Warren AFB, Wyo. -- I've been a safety professional for more than 30 years now. While many things have changed in that time, some have not.

Back in 1977 the No. 1 cause of fatal vehicle mishaps was driving at excessive speed.
Today nothing has changed. National and our own local rollover statistics show that speeding or driving too fast for conditions is still the leading causes of mishaps in 2007.

No one would ever accuse me of being a genius, but it doesn't take one to realize speed is part of the American culture. Movies like "The Fast & Furious", and TV shows like "Drive" glorify breaking speed limits. Car commercials show their products zooming around the countryside. Is it any wonder most Americans feel speed limit signs are more of a guideline than an actual law?

Believe it or not, this isn't a safety lecture. I'd like to address this from a different viewpoint, that of a civilian. When I drive I try to keep my speed at the posted speed limit. Many times other cars and trucks pass me like I'm standing still. Usually, I just shake my head. But when I notice those speeders with a base sticker or in uniform it gets under my skin. After all, regardless of your status or rank, those of us who work on this base reflect the military as a whole. I think to myself, "Hey, aren't these the guys who are supposed to be a cut above the rest? Aren't they the best of the best? But here they are intentionally breaking a law!"

Try driving out the front gate and down Pershing Boulevard. The speed limit is 30 mph. Apparently this translates to 55 mph for most people, including a significant number who work on this base.

Any commander will tell you that just because the civilian population finds something socially acceptable does not mean that it is acceptable in the military. Sadly, you don't have to go very far off base to meet people who routinely ignore all sorts of laws. But it's one thing for them to do it and another for us. Most of you would never intentionally give the Air Force a black eye. Yet, what message do we send to the people we've sworn to defend when we are the fast and the furious?

If you don't care what people think of you, great. You'll probably never need therapy. But you should think, no, you must think about what people will think of the rest of us before you put that pedal to the metal.

It's the professional thing to do, and I have yet to meet a Mighty Ninety person who is not a professional. So let's act like professionals and obey all laws, even those everyone else seems to ignore.