AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Driving statistics are not something the 31st Fighter Wing often celebrates.

The American military community at Aviano averages more than 700 accidents a year and about two citations for drunken driving each month.

But an array of programs, the recent start-up of a cab service and an apparent rash of good judgment have the numbers posted on signs near base exits climbing to record highs. And that’s a good thing in this case.

Monday marked the 73rd straight day without a citation for driving under the influence by base personnel — an all-time high since the base starting keeping such records in 1998. The highest previous total was 70 straight days in 1998.

“It really comes down to making the right choices,” said Master Sgt. Terry Todd, ground safety manager.

Todd credits a number of programs and efforts by base personnel to get the word out that drinking and driving is not acceptable. But he said the biggest factor might be the addition of the Right Choice cab company — the first time there has been such a service on base.

“You can just about tie it to the fact that the cab service started about 80 days ago,” he said.

Col. Monty Brock, the wing’s vice commander, spread the praise around.

“Our renewed focus on senior NCO (noncommissioned officer) involvement in the lives of our airmen is paying great dividends,” he said in a statement. “The 70-plus days without a DUI is just the most visible aspect. I couldn’t be more proud of the way our senior enlisted force has stepped up to the challenge and responsibility. I’m also proud of our airmen for having a plan when they drink, and then sticking to it. This is truly a wing-wide win.”

Although the number of accidents has remained relatively consistent since the wing stood up in Aviano in 1994, the number of DUIs has fallen in recent years. The number of citations dropped to 27 in 2004 from 42 in 2003. And the number of DUIs in 2005 was even lower — 24.

In 2003, the base commander went as far as planning to give all 8,700 troops a day off if they could go 31 days without a DUI arrest. That program, however, was ended by Brig. Gen. Robert Yates, who became the 31st Fighter Wing commander last summer.

And while this year’s DUI total stands at 21, the total number of accidents remains troubling, Todd said.

“There’s a big push to reduce them,” he said, adding that squadron commanders are sent slides of the past week’s accidents every week to use in briefings with their units. “It seems to be sinking in. The information is getting out.”

He said one positive sign is that a few weeks into the fiscal year, Americans have been judged to be responsible for only 48 percent of the accidents they’ve been in. Historically, that number is about 78 percent.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.

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