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New Kadena unit enforces safety

Airman 1st Class Russell Almanza and Senior Airman Eric Proctor, members of the 18th Security Forces Squadron traffic safety unit, enforce speed regulations at Kadena Air Base, Japan, by using a Lidar speed detector near Gate 1, Aug. 8. The traffic safety unit was implemented three months ago to reduce accidents and promote safety on and off base.
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Reynaldo Ramon

Airman 1st Class Russell Almanza and Senior Airman Eric Proctor, members of the 18th Security Forces Squadron traffic safety unit, enforce speed regulations at Kadena Air Base, Japan, by using a Lidar speed detector near Gate 1, Aug. 8. The traffic safety unit was implemented three months ago to reduce accidents and promote safety on and off base. U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Reynaldo Ramon

Airman 1st Class Russell Almanza, a member of the 18th Security Forces Squadron traffic safety unit, enforces speed regulations at Kadena Air Base, Japan, by using a Lidar speed  detector near Gate 1, Aug. 8. The traffic safety unit was implemented three months ago to reduce accidents and promote safety on and off base.
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Reynaldo Ramon

Airman 1st Class Russell Almanza, a member of the 18th Security Forces Squadron traffic safety unit, enforces speed regulations at Kadena Air Base, Japan, by using a Lidar speed detector near Gate 1, Aug. 8. The traffic safety unit was implemented three months ago to reduce accidents and promote safety on and off base. U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Reynaldo Ramon

Airman 1st Class Russell Almanza and Senior Airman Eric Proctor, members of the 18th Security Forces Squadron traffic safety unit, enforce speed regulations at Kadena Air Base, Japan, by using a Lidar speed  detector near Gate 1, Aug. 8. The traffic safety unit was implemented three months ago to reduce accidents and promote safety on and off base.
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Reynaldo Ramon

Airman 1st Class Russell Almanza and Senior Airman Eric Proctor, members of the 18th Security Forces Squadron traffic safety unit, enforce speed regulations at Kadena Air Base, Japan, by using a Lidar speed detector near Gate 1, Aug. 8. The traffic safety unit was implemented three months ago to reduce accidents and promote safety on and off base. U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Reynaldo Ramon

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Officials here recently implemented use of a special traffic unit from the 18th Security Forces Squadron to keep down the number of vehicle accidents involving Team Kadena members. 

Recently an American driver hit an Okinawan child crossing the street off-base, adding the number of collisions involving base people--which stands at 46 major and 538 minor accidents so far this year. 

The 18th SFS recently added patrols dedicated to enforcing on-base traffic regulations and through the 18th Wing Safety office disseminated rules to reach all avenues dealing with hazards on and off-base. 

"People's safety is what matters most," said Staff Sgt. Javier Pineda, 18th SFS traffic safety unit, noncommissioned officer in charge. 

More stringent laws have also been implemented recently on Okinawa, affecting both local and U.S. drivers. 

"The number of incidents have been reduced," said Lt. Col. Greg Foster, 18th SFS commander. "Between the traffic patrols and sobriety checks, our numbers are less than Pacific Air Force and the Air Force." 

Colonel Foster said the reason why Kadena sticks out so much is its large population of 24,000 residents. 

Last year, Kadena has experienced 106 major accidents and 1,016 minor accidents within its jurisdiction. 

"Regardless of how good a driver you are, it's the other person you have to watch out for," said Sergeant Pineda. "You have to be aware of your surroundings." 

As guests in this country, Americans need to follow not only the driving laws and regulations of the United States, but also the host nation's traffic regulations, said Colonel Foster. 

Rules differ slightly for driving on and off-base. 

"You pick up bad habits off-base such as the three second rule after the light has turned red," said Sergeant Pineda. "Those things should not be done on base." 

The yellow light should not prompt you to speed up, instead slow down and wait for the light to turn green, said Sergeant Pineda. 

Some of the differences are cultural. In Japan, pedestrians have the right of way. Children are taught at an early age to simply raise their hand when crossing traffic.
"We're suppose to be watching for them," said Colonel Foster. 

Drivers should always be attentive when behind the wheel and be aware of pedestrians, particularly children. 

Sergeant Pineda said the two-lane roadways are unsafe for any kind of distraction, think twice, and pull off to the side of the road. 

"You may think you're in control of your vehicle, but it doesn't mean the person next to you is," said Sergeant Pineda. 

For more information, call 634-0973 or 634-2475.