Commentary by Alicia Yanchisin
USAG Stuttgart Safety Office
First, I’d like to start by saying safety professionals do not take pleasure in having to approach someone to tell them they are not following the rules. Truthfully, you never know how a person is going to react – some are apologetic and others … not so much.
With that being said, I want to share an experience I had several weeks ago as I left my office on Panzer Kaserne.
I noticed two young men ride past me on their bicycles and couldn’t help but see that neither of these young men was wearing the required bike helmet and both were wearing prohibited ear buds/headphones.
Now, I could have blown it off as some might have, but I felt it was my duty to speak these young men, so I followed them into the Shopette and found one of them in the military clothing section.
I approached him, introduced myself and told him what I had observed. I asked him if he was a military member or a dependent.
The young man was polite and told me he was a dependent. He stated he was unaware that bike helmets are required on U.S. military installations. He also stated he didn’t know that earphones/buds were prohibited when riding a bike, skateboard, roller-skating/blading, walking or running on, or adjacent to, a road.
I asked him to follow the rules in the future and I went on to locate the other young man and explained the requirements to him as well.
I am not sure how the two made it home that day as I didn’t stick around to watch.
I hope they made the right decision and pushed their bikes home, but realistically, they probably rode home.
This incident has made me more aware of bicyclists as well as people walking, running, skating and skateboarding on post and in the weeks since this incident I have seen numerous people who are also “unaware” or “just don’t care” about these requirements.
It’s a problem on all of our installations here in Stuttgart, from what I have observed.
I continue to see cyclists with no helmets and wearing headphones as well as pedestrians and runners wearing headphones or talking on the phone with little regard for their surroundings.
Obviously, the safety office staff and the Military Police can’t be everywhere all the time, so who’s responsibility is it to ensure everyone is aware of the rules and follows them?
Commanders, managers, supervisors, sponsors, parents and yes, even individuals are responsible for knowing the rules, following the rules and, when necessary, enforcing the rules.
The reason for the rules is simple: years upon years of documented statistics that support the use of helmets when riding bicycles.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports on their website the most serious injuries among the majority of those killed are to the head, thus highlighting the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet.
According to IIHS statistics from 2009, not wearing helmets accounted for 89 percent of bicycle-related deaths in people older than 16 years-old and 91 percent of total bicycle-related fatalities.
Additionally, the University of Maryland Medical Center has been conducting research on pedestrians hit and seriously injured or killed while wearing headphones or using other listening devices when walking on or near roadways.
The UMMC study revealed serious injuries tripled from 2006 to 2012 and 75 percent of victims died from their injuries. The study goes on to say that young adult males are in the highest risk category.
The bottom line is that these rules are in place to protect the members of our community and everyone must follow them.
For more information on the regulatory requirements, please contact the Garrison Safety Office at DSN 431-3134.