Army seeks ways to cut accidental death rate
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Soldiers might have to run their travel plans through a risk-assessment computer program before being granted a pass or leave under a new safety system being discussed at the U.S. Army Safety Center, according to a news release.
The system is among plans being discussed in light of orders from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to slash the accidental death rate for soldiers by 50 percent by 2005, said Brig. Gen. Joe Smith of the U.S. Army Safety Center, who spoke last week to officers with the 6th Cavalry Brigade at Camp Humphreys.
Statistics show 259 Army soldiers worldwide were killed in accidents in fiscal 2003, which ended Sept. 30.
In response, the U.S. Army Safety Center is developing new programs toward getting commands involved in keeping soldiers safer — especially those on pass or leave.
Of the 259 soldiers killed last year, six of 10 died in vehicle mishaps, both on duty and in personal vehicles.
“Statistics show that soldiers are falling asleep when they are returning to base from pass or leave,” Smith said in a news release.
At highest risk, Smith said: male soldiers ages 19 to 24 driving back to base during the last six hours of a three-day pass.
Speed, fatigue and failure to use a seat belt or motorcycle helmet were cited as leading causes of injuries.
Now, soldiers may be required to take a Web-based risk assessment before being granted leave or a pass.
A personal vehicle trip planner and risk assessment tool already is being beta-tested on the safety center’s Web site (http://safety.army.mil/home.html) to enlighten soldiers about risks, Smith said.
The series of questions includes route, fatigue level and weather conditions.
A risk matrix is created that includes a recommended driving route and road and weather conditions that may be encountered.
Accidents also have contributed to a high number of noncombat related deaths in Iraq.
According to figures published by the Defense Department, 230 soldiers have died in the Iraq campaign in noncombat incidents, including friendly fire, drowning and vehicle mishaps.
A Scripps Howard News Service study in September found that soldiers serving in Iraq were almost as likely to die from an accident as in combat.
Although South Korea is not considered a combat zone, soldiers nonetheless have fallen victim to accidents:
• A U.S. soldier was killed Tuesday morning, officials said, after an alcohol-related single- car crash between Waegwan and Kumi cities.
• Two soldiers were killed Aug. 12 when their C-12 transport plane crashed in an onion field.
• Three soldiers died over six weeks in summer 2002 after taking part in physical training.
The safety center is developing new programs to promote risk management involving at least three supervisors or leaders at various levels in the command, Smith said.
Other statistics he cited included:
• Privately owned-vehicle accidents accounted for 109 deaths, about 42.1 percent of all military fatalities.
Personal-injury accidents accounted for 59 deaths, or 22.8 percent. Water, weapons, heat injuries and falls caused 51 of those fataltities; the other eight were a result of automobile, choking, snowboarding, industrial, train and pedestrian accidents.
Thirty-four aviation accidents accounted for 31.1 percent of fatalities.
Seven fires or explosions were responsible for 2.7 percent of all fatalities.