Pedestrians encouraged to use crosswalks

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Brad Heithold
The other day I was driving along one of our roads on base, thinking about the culture change we are trying to achieve through the Voluntary Protection Program. You know a culture where everyone takes responsibility for not only their own safety, but also that of their peers. Suddenly I hit the brakes as a pedestrian began crossing the road.

No, it wasn't a near-accident, but I didn't expect to brake for someone at all. There was no crosswalk there, though there was one a mere twenty steps away. In an instant I went from being glad I saw the pedestrian in time, to wondering why anyone would risk life or limb crossing the road away from a designated crosswalk.

I chair the VPP steering group, which is working hard to change the culture of Robins to create a safer and healthier environment. A few years ago we had serious accidents, and we lost good people when they were injured or even killed. We took responsibility for our people's safety and launched an aggressive effort to reduce risk at Robins called Operation Risk Reduction, and found our culture, unlike that of the Air Force, left us vulnerable to industrial accidents. We started to change that culture, and accelerated the change under VPP.

It is obvious to me that the same culture that left us vulnerable to industrial accidents leaves pedestrians vulnerable to traffic accidents when they fail to use crosswalks. You don't see that happen on other Air Force installations, and shouldn't see it here. Automobile drivers might justifiably be confused when they see a pedestrian crossing outside a crosswalk. Drivers know they have to brake for pedestrians in a crosswalk, but what about away from a crosswalk? They may also be confused as to whether a pedestrian actually intends to cross the road. When using a crosswalk, there is no confusion. The driver stops.

We cannot on the one hand claim to be improving our culture in regard to industrial safety, while on the other hand we ignore that culture in regard to pedestrian safety.

Let's all help change the culture to one that embraces Air Force Core values and see safety as everyone's responsibility not just the safety professionals' responsibility.