'Skid monster' ensures driving safety

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Timothy Kim
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
A blue sedan zooms down the autobahn, trailing a maelstrom of snow and ice behind it. Dave had just finished work; it was a long and tiring day and there was nothing more he wanted to do but go home and lie on the couch with a warm, wool blanket.

He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose and shut his eyes for a brief second.

Just one brief second.

Eyes wide, heart racing and his veins shooting adrenaline faster than he could spit a reflexive curse word from his mouth, he saw the world spinning before his eyes - the whole thing painting itself into a blur of Picasso's greatest nightmares.

Before his mind could tell Dave what to do, his hands twitched slightly to the left, then to the right and he found himself sliding harmlessly back down the road he lost sight of for two seconds.

Dave let the car straighten itself out as he licked his lips and took a couple of deep breaths, with one thought continuing to pervade his mind with a resounding echo:

"What just happened?"

The scenario described above may be fictional, but its potential to become reality is not rare for base community members.

Fortunately, a program with nearly a decade of reducing safety mishaps exists to help keep Spangdahlem Airmen and their families safe and the wing mission continuing.

"The Saber Driving Course affords the opportunity to increase awareness of safe vehicle operations," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Richard Page, 52nd FW Safety Office superintendent. "Our goals are to provide critical education and special skills to all Airmen, civilians and dependents to combat vehicle mishaps. The tactics learned are essential to effectively maneuvering vehicles to safety that may determine the life or death outcome."

Students undergo a 30-minute course at the wing safety office preceding the driving simulation. Afterwards, they head out to the driving course itself which they are tasked to drive around a pathway dictated by pre-set traffic cones; a simple enough task, if not for the program's vehicle - the "Skid Monster."

The Skid Monster's specially designed wheels simulate the situation of driving on slick road conditions. The course instructors assign the students to drive in the controlled environment around the cones and release the locks on the training vehicle, enabling it to skid around.

Trainees get to experience what it's like to spin out and commandeer the program vehicle to the best of their abilities and rely on the training they learned during the preceding brief.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jessica Morgan, 52nd FW Safety Office traffic safety manager, points out that the course changes drivers' perspectives on driving safely and helps reintegrate them into places with various weather elements that affect road conditions.

"We have so many people who live off-base who are exposed to the elements," Morgan said. "It'll affect our mission if Airmen get in vehicle accidents and can't show up to work - or worse. It's important that drivers experience the driving course to learn what to do in a safe, controlled environment. Our number one priority is taking care of each other and that everyone is safe. If people aren't being safe, they won't be able to perform the mission as per their requirement."

The safety team, according to U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Brittany McGill, a 52nd FW Safety Office occupational safety and health technician, purposefully designed the course conditions with the intention of having trainees losing control of the vehicle to build reflexive skills and knowledge for real-world situations of the same nature.

"Every person at this base has a huge impact to the mission," McGill said. "The more people we can keep in the mission, the better we will all do in saving the rest of the world."

Page, along with the rest of the 52nd FW Ground Safety team, extends their concerns to the Spangdahlem community and to those who will be encountering adverse road conditions along with the approaching winter weather.

"The driving course provides education and skills," Page said. "However, the big take-away is for operators to drive in accordance with road conditions, environments and personal skills. Just as important - paying attention to surroundings, eliminating distractions and slower speeds are contributing factors for safe travels."

For further information, please contact the wing safety office at: DSN 452-7233 or commercial 06565617233.