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Off the phone or off the road

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La -- Almost everyone has seen a driver distracted by a cell phone, but often don't realize that when you are the one distracted, that driver is you.

Cell phones are a top distraction that exist while driving.

While smartphones have introduced a huge amount of convenience into our day-to-day routines, they have also introduced a new world of dangers.

Texting while driving is one of the leading causes of unintentional death and injury -motor vehicle collisions. According to the National Safety Council, the use of cell phones while driving leads to 1.6 million accidents every year. One out of every four car accidents in the United States is due to texting and driving.

Air Force Manual 31-116, Motor Vehicle Traffic Supervision, restricts the use of cell phones while driving. Only cell phones with hands-free devices are permissible for use by drivers.

A hands-free device is a Bluetooth enabled device such as, a headset or speaker which allows the driver to speak on their device without having to hold it in their hands. Having a phone on speakerphone is NOT considered hands-free.

"People should know they can be stopped solely for using a cell phone while driving without a hands-free device,” said Senior Master Sgt. Daniel James, 2nd Security Forces Squadron operations superintendent. “It is considered an offense. Traffic citations and points on your license will be issued.”

This policy is part of the Department of Defense’s Joint Traffic Guidance, and this restriction also applies to all government owned vehicles at all times.

Security forces is strictly enforcing regulations against driving on installations while using non-hands-free cell phones.

Drivers who do not comply with base policy may receive a seven day driving suspension for cell phone violations for the first offense, and subsequent violations within a 12-month period may result in 30-day suspensions.

The Department of Defense’s joint traffic document states: vehicle operators on a DOD installation and operators of government owned vehicles shall not use cell phones unless the vehicle is safely parked or unless they are using a hands-free device.

“You might not realize each time you take your focus off the road while driving, even just for a second, you’re putting your life and lives of others in danger,” said Staff Sgt. Hannah Vega, 2nd SFS law enforcement administration program manager. “The message is pretty simple about the use of cellular phones, talking or texting while driving on base, don’t do it, or you’ll get a ticket and points on your license, which could lead to a suspended license for base driving.”