Off-duty fatalities concern safety chief 

Brig. Gen. William T. Wolf discusses aviation safety

While the fatality rate in non-combat related accidents has continuously dropped since the 1970s, off-duty incidents are a primary concern, according to the Army’s top safety officer.

Speaking on the final day of the Association of the Army’s Aviation Symposium and Exposition, Brig. Gen. William T. Wolf, director of Army safety, said the biggest challenge is “when our soldiers take the uniform off for the weekend.” Leadership, peers and family members need to make a difference in reinforcing safe practices during off-duty time.

Car accidents – where 46 percent of fatalities from last year weren’t wearing a seat belt – and motorcycles continue to be a concern, Wolf said.

Of the 180 soldiers lost last year, 64 percent were from a privately owned vehicle accident.

One troubling statistic: 73 percent of the motorcycle fatalities last year involved soldiers who have direct involvement leading younger soldiers -- E-5s to O-4s.

Wolf said the Army is starting several motorcycle training initiatives – from basic to refresher courses, and mentorship programs – to encourage soldiers to become safer riders.

In theater, not including combat, the most hazardous activity is operating heavy tactical vehicles, Wolf said. This includes objects inside vehicles becoming dangerous projectiles when not properly tied down.

“These vehicles roll over every day,” he said.

More home station training, such as driver training modules and time in egress trainers, would help soldiers better prepare for operating cumbersome vehicles, Wolf said.

Weapons’incidents are also an issue in theater, and they mainly come from soldiers improperly clearing weapons and failing to engage the safety, he said.

On the aviation side, Class A mishaps were between 80 and 90 percent human error, Wolf said. Those accidents stemmed primarily from complacency – overconfidence, aircrew coordination failures, inadequate mission planning and taking low-risk missions too lightly.

Crew members should take the time to be better prepared, communicate with each other more while in the air, and be mentally ready to take action.