Navy in Europe safety report shows summer incidents down
NAPLES, Italy — As the summer fades into cooler temperatures, Navy safety officials are relieved that the safety program “critical days of summer” in Europe racked up positive results, officials said.
Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the region logged a 55 percent reduction in motor-vehicle injuries, a 50 percent drop in recreation and off-duty nonvehicular injuries, and a 16.7 percent reduction in the number of active duty personnel caught for driving under the influence of alcohol, according to a safety report.
The DUI numbers dropped from 12 cases during that three-month period last year to 10 injuries this year, and represents the number of sailors caught coming onto bases and failing a sobriety test, said Bill Turnbull, the Navy Region Safety Manager.
“The good news is that we’re not catching them because of accidents, but we’re not foolish enough to think they’re not out there drinking and driving,” Turnbull said. Overall, the decrease in incidents isn’t reflective of the summer months alone, he said. The dip has been a constant since January. “We started off the fiscal year quite badly, but, since January, have seen a steady downward trend that continued through the summer,” he said.
During the first three months of the fiscal year, which started Oct. 1, two sailors died in separate car accidents in Italy, one near Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily, and one at Castellammare di Stabia, near Naples. In fiscal 2005, the region had four fatal incidents.
Last year, the Navy began to ease away from delivering safety messages during the summer and holiday months alone, even though those are the periods in which more people travel or participate in outdoor and sporting activities, and as such, record a higher number of incidents, Turnbull said.
“Safety does not recognize a timeline,” Turnbull said, quoting Navy Region Europe commander Rear Adm. Noel Preston.
Roughly a year ago, the Navy designated one person at each base safety office to focus on traffic safety alone, he said, and pitch safety messages all year round.
And they’ve gotten senior enlisted personnel to deliver the message directly to the troops. “If you’ve got a chief (petty officer) coming in to talk to you personally, that makes it personal. And we think that’s working,” Turnbull said.
In fiscal 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld mandated each service cut their overall injury rates by 50 percent by fiscal 2005, and by 75 percent by 2008. The Navy overall missed that ’05 goal, as did the Navy in Europe.
In fiscal 2005, the region recorded 70 military off-duty injury cases. The number thus far in fiscal 2006 is 35, the report states.
While Navy Europe has logged a decline, that’s not the case for the rest of the Navy and Marine Corps. As of Friday, 130 sailors and Marines died in private vehicle accidents this fiscal year, according to the Navy Safety Center’s Web site, www.safetycenter.navy.mil.
This is the highest number of deaths since 1993, when the Navy had about 150,000 more sailors than it does today.