NAS Sigonella focuses on road safety enforcement after wave of road fatalities

Petty Officer 3rd Class Racquel Amanda Johnson and Seaman Darica Shunte Lashae Slaughter, stationed at Naval Air Station Sigonella, were killed in a single vehicle crash on September 12, 2021, in Sicily. In response to the crash and two other traffic-related deaths in the past 14 months, Sigonella is once again focusing on enforcing the rules of conduct, Navy officials said. (US Navy)

NAPLES, Italy – The traffic-related deaths of four sailors have prompted a U.S. naval base in Sicily to step up scrutiny of dangerous driving and rule violations, service officials said.

The additional focus will include more base security and local police patrols on and near the three main operational areas of Naval Air Base Sigonella, said Base Commander Captain Kevin Pickard.

Captain Kevin Pickard Jr., commander of Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy.  In response to four traffic-related deaths in the past 14 months, Sigonella is once again focusing on enforcing driving rules, Pickard and Navy officials said.

Captain Kevin Pickard Jr., commander of Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy. In response to four traffic-related deaths in the past 14 months, Sigonella is once again focusing on enforcing driving rules, Pickard and Navy officials said. (US Navy)

A full review of NAS Sigonella’s driving program is also underway, said Pickard, who made the announcement in a Sept. 30 column in Basic magazine. Signature.

“While there is no specific causal factor that directly links all of these incidents, it is clear to me that we are operating far too close to the edge when it comes to safe driving here at Sigonella,” said Pickard. .

Last month Petty Officer 3rd Class Racquel Amanda Johnson and Seaman Darica Shunte Lashae Slaughter were killed in a single vehicle crash on the outskirts of Catania.

In December, Petty Officer 3rd Class Jason Darrick Conger died in a single vehicle accident near Misterbianco in Catania. Seaman Arturo Rivera was killed in a hit-and-run accident in July 2020 on a Sicilian coastal road.

Pickard called the four deaths and the January death of Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Gastrich, who died paddleboarding, “five too many” in the space of 14 months.

Base personnel or dependents have also been involved in several vehicle crashes requiring hospitalization, he said.

Aerial view of NAS I, one of the two sites of Naval Air Station Sigonella, in eastern Sicily.  In response to four traffic-related deaths in the past 14 months, Sigonella is increasing road patrols and is once again focusing on enforcing driving rules.

Aerial view of NAS I, one of the two sites of Naval Air Station Sigonella, in eastern Sicily. In response to four traffic-related deaths in the past 14 months, Sigonella is increasing road patrols and is once again focusing on enforcing driving rules. (US Navy)

In their review, officials have already uncovered some disturbing trends, including expired vehicle registrations and driving without insurance, Pickard said.

Speeding and dangerous or illegal overtaking off base are the most common bad driving behaviors, NAS Sigonella spokesperson Lt. Drake Greer said.

“The rural farm road and congested urban road conditions around Sigonella pose a risk by increasing crash lethality and shortening reaction times,” said Greer.

NAS Sigonella has already set up its traffic court, and violators risk losing their driving privileges for serious or repeated infractions, according to Pickard.

The base will also increase the scrutiny of the initial driver’s license, for example by requiring potential drivers to take a course and pass an exam before obtaining a license. The change puts NAS Sigonella in line with other bases overseas, Pickard said.

“The driving and traffic conditions in Sicily are significantly different from what most military personnel are used to from the United States,” Pickard said in a statement to Stars and Stripes. “These differences present significant challenges for new and experienced drivers. “

Authorities will seek a decrease in traffic accidents, movement violations and incidents as part of ongoing assessments.

“Our goal is to reduce and eliminate preventable dangerous driving behavior from US personnel at Sigonella,” Pickard said.

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