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Drivers must use hands-free cell phones...or else

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Courtesy stops and warning tickets for people violating the guidance on the use of cell phones while driving on base is over.

Until June 1, patrolmen from the 99th Security Forces Squadron just stopped violators and warned them of the dangers of not using a hands-free device for their cell phones.

According to Maj. John-Paul Mickle, commander of the 99th Security Forces Squadron, using a cell phone while driving without a hands-free device is considered a "primary offense." Therefore, violators are now ticketed and given three assessment points against their base-driving record. Any driver accumulating more than 12 points in a year, for any combination of offenses, will have their on-base driving privileges revoked.

Since the enforcement of the Department of Defense rule, Nellis security forces personnel have issued about 10 tickets per month, averaging two per week.

"We want our installation to be safe," said Major Mickle. "And the proper use of a hands-free device for cell phones is just one more way to ensure everyone on base continues to drive prudently."

The use of hands-free devices for cell phones includes all government vehicles at all times on or off base.

Personnel are also again reminded that the wearing of any other portable headphones, earphones or other listening devices, except for hands-free cell phones while operating a vehicle, is prohibited.

A recent study released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that almost 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driving inattention within three seconds of the event. The study found that the most common form of distraction is the use of cell phones, followed by drowsiness. However, other distractions such as reaching for a cup of coffee, talking to a passenger, and attempting to put on makeup, are all factors leading to accidents.

According to the NHTSHA, there are now 212 million cell phone users, and more than 80 percent of those are used by people operating a vehicle. The report concluded that even using a hands-free device can impair the driver.

Being absorbed in a conversation breaks the operator's concentration; these conversations decrease the response to braking by 18 percent, and it takes them 17 percent longer to refocus and increase speed into the flow of traffic. Also, individuals using a cell phone or a hands-free device decrease their awareness of pedestrians, highway signs, and traffic signal lights.

For more information and guidance on the Department of Defense's Joint Traffic Guidance, contact the 99th SFS at 652-2566.

Tips for safe cellular phone use

Make safe driving your first priority

- Buckle up

- Keep both your hands on the wheel

- Keep your eyes on the road

- Position your phone where it is easy to see and reach

- ALWAYS use a hands-free microphone while driving

- Pull over to dial manually

- Use your voice mail if it is not safe to answer the car

conversation is worth an accident with injuries, or a fatality .

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