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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Fender benders. Rear-enders. Bumper kisses.

Distracted drivers are the primary cause of the 2.4 traffic crack-ups happening every day at Yokosuka Naval Base, a base safety official indicated.

“People are changing CDs, talking on the phone, putting on makeup, changing the volume, eating breakfast — basically doing anything but paying attention to the road,” said Safety and Occupational Health Specialist Michael Kretschmer. “We continue to see accident after accident. We need to do better.”

But, by the numbers [CHART], Yokosuka already is doing better. A lot better. On-base accidents have fallen some 40 percent in the past three years. More than 1,200 major and minor accidents were logged in 2002. This year there were 713.

This puts Yokosuka on track with other bases once population numbers are crunched, Kretschmer said.

Safety advocates now are more proactive in preventing accidents, he said. Today, sailors on ships miles from any roads are talking traffic safety as instructors go under way with the ships for up to 90 days at a time to do onboard training and update naval personnel on traffic law changes, he said.

Some accident-prone commands started requiring the Automobile Association of America’s Drivers Improvement Program for all of their duty drivers. The class also now is available to the public.

Plus, Yokosuka is among the few bases that retained the road test as a mandatory part of the drivers licensing program.

“We like to set the safety standard,” Kretschmer said. “We don’t just turn people loose with a car.”

Still, people make mistakes, accident records show. Rear-end collisions are the most common accident. Backing up into someone comes in second place. Most of Yokosuka’s accidents occur in parking lots.

For his part, Kretschmer would like to see the 2.4 accidents happening daily to drop to less than two by year’s end.

“We are shooting for the ‘zero’ but we know that’s in a perfect world,” Kretschmer said. “For future numbers, one per day would be something to brag about with our population.”


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