by Kohen Gillis, US Navy Mass Communications Specialist

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 300,000 people are injured every year due to distracted driving.

Distracted driving was the third leading cause of death in roadway accidents for the year 2017, falling behind alcohol and speeding as the top two leading causes and resulting in more than 40,000 deaths.

The consequences of distracted driving is fresh on the minds of the firemen of Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) Gulfport’s Fire Department since learning the news that former NCBC fireman Dwaine Bradshaw was struck and killed by a vehicle while assisting a motorist during an early morning call near Pensacola, Fla, nearly three weeks ago.

“You really hate to hear about things like that,” said NCBC Gulfport fire inspector Jack Healy. “I think it just really brings the risk closer to reality when it happens to someone you know.”

A common misconception is that distracted driving only effects the ones in the vehicle of the distracted driver. Since the year 2000, more than 90 firefighters have been struck and killed in roadway accidents.

“When we’re on the scene of a call, we’re not always focused on the outside dangers surrounding us,” said NCBC Gulfport fire chief Mark Henson. “We’re often much more focused on the task at hand than we are our own safety.”

Many states have signed into law the requirement for motorists to slow down and move over one traffic lane for stopped emergency vehicles. In fact, Mississippi passed its own Move Over Law in 2007 to protect first responders and people pulled over on the side of the highway or any road.

The roads on NCBC Gulfport pose a unique challenge since there are no four-lane roadways on base.

“What we highly encourage people to do on base if they see a fire truck or a police car stopped on the side of the road is to stop and wait for the responder to motion you through,” said Healy. “We urge people to never assume they can pass a stopped responder just because the road appears clear ahead.”

With distracted driving becoming more of an issue than ever before, the potential for accidents and mishaps is also higher than ever. It’s important to remain vigilant and drive defensively, especially during the holiday season.