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Alive at 25 course combats unsafe driving

7 May 2010 | Cpl. Monica C. Erickson

The Combat Center’s Safety Office took up the fight against inexperienced driving by implementing the Alive at 25 program to teach younger installation personnel the right way to drive and the best way to react when all hell breaks loose on the road. The class, which is held at least once a week by a safety instructor, focuses on drivers ages 15 to 24. The majority of the Marine Corps also fall in this category.

Angel Rios, an instructor for the Alive at 25 program, said the class is mandatory for new Marines and sailors, but he urges everyone who has access to the Combat Center and falls into the age category, including high school students, to attend the class.

This class is not only mandatory for new Marines, but it is essential to keeping them alive, Rios said.

“As young adults, we don’t think about responsibility,” he explained. “We live in the moment, and don’t worry about the actions we take and how they affect the people who love us.”

In an attempt to stray away from the normal safety brief format, where entire battalions are mandated to attend at once, the Alive at 25 instructors try to keep their classes small and informal, which Rios said is the best way to interact with the attendees and ensure they receive and retain all the necessary information.

The instructors keep students engaged by asking questions and providing unusual facts and laws many young drivers don’t know, such as the average person will drive under the influence nearly 500 times before being caught, or a parent can have their child removed from their custody for a minimum of six months if the parent is caught driving without a seatbelt while their child is in the car.

Rios also stresses the six leading causes of death for Marines while driving, which are, alcohol and drug impairment, fatigue, speeding, driving at night, lack of seatbelts and drivers distractions, such as using a cell phone, adjusting the radio or eating.

“The majority of accidents have three or more of these factors involved,” said Rios, a Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico, native. He gave the example of a Marine drinking at a bar in Palm Springs, Calif., staying until 2 a.m., then speeding back make it to work on time. That Marine is now under three factors — alcohol impairment, speeding and driving at night.

Jon Briel, an instructor for the Alive at 25 program, provided real stories about Marines who have been killed in vehicle accidents, and asks the class what those Marines could have done to save their lives. He also stressed how taking proper care of a vehicle can help prevent some accidents.

The course featured videos from the National Safety Council which include footage of actual crashes, what happens when a car hits a telephone pole speeding at more than 65 miles per hour and what happens to human bodies during roll-overs when they are not wearing seatbelts.

One of the videos focused on the pain and suffering families endured after someone they loved was killed in an alcohol-related crash.

Seaman Denton Lambert, a corpsman with the Mojave Viper Support Detachment, said he felt the whole class was extremely informative and helped him view driving laws in a different light.

 “I was surprised to hear I could be charged for my daughter’s death if I am not wearing a seatbelt and am in an accident, even if the accident wasn’t my fault,” said Lambert, a Huntsville, Ala., native. “Throughout the class, I was able to see laws I was never even aware of.”

Lambert said the main thing he took away from the class was that everybody is responsible for their own actions, and his actions could affect everybody he knows and loves.

For more information or to schedule a seat in a class, contact Rios at 830-8467.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms