Even when you're right, something wrong can still happen to you

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. James Norton
  • 45th Space Wing Safety
Riding in a vehicle can be an unsafe activity, even if you are following all of the rules. 

The year was 2003 when Ms. Roberta Clark was driving her vehicle exiting the Main Gate at Patrick Air Force Base. While attempting to turn left onto A1A traveling northbound, another vehicle traveling southbound on A1A ran the red light and collided with her vehicle.  The other vehicle was traveling at 60 mph and never even attempted to stop.  This was determined by state traffic investigators. 

It took rescue crew members over an hour and a half to remove Ms. Clark from her vehicle.  The accident was so severe that her family members were notified not to expect her to make it through the night.  But the strong will of Ms. Clark helped carry her through this dark time, and she is alive and well but still feeling the effects many years later. She spent three months in the hospital and a month in rehabilitation after that.

This was not the first time an accident like this has occurred at the Main Gate, and it certainly was not the last.  In the past two years, there have been 13 vehicle accidents that have occurred at that this location.  Many of these accidents are not at the fault of the individual driving their vehicle onto or exiting the base.

Normally the people exiting the base and heading onto A1A proceed immediately when the light turns green.  They are unaware that another vehicle may be traveling at a high speed rate and may not be noticing the traffic light changing to red.  This does not give them enough time to stop, causing them to run the red light and crash into other vehicles exiting the base.  These accidents mainly occur with larger vehicles, such as semi-tractor trailer trucks because their size and weight make it more difficult for them to turn.

These accidents and collisions not only occur while exiting the base, but also when entering.

When attempting to cross A1A to enter the base, proceed with caution.  When the arrow is green you are protected.  When there is no arrow and the light is just green you are unprotected.  Even with the green arrow, however, still proceed with caution because another vehicle can still run the red light. Make sure that your path is completely clear of oncoming traffic before you go.

Bottom line...before you exit or enter the base through the main gate, once the light turns green, pause for a second.  Look both directions, just like you would before crossing the street to ensure no vehicles are traveling towards you, especially at a high rate of speed.  If you notice any vehicle traveling towards you wait another second or two to ensure they come to a full and complete stop before you proceed. 

This may just end up saving your life.