Dozens of Hawaii-stationed service members and civilian personnel attended an unorthodox driving safety brief May 22 at the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific Headquarters Building, here.
Unlike the typical brief, composed of lectures and PowerPoint presentations, MARFORPAC safety officials decided to conduct the event using a traffic safety comedian.
“This is a pre-holiday brief and we’re trying to get everyone in the safety mindset,” said Capt. Harold J. Everhart, the safety officer for Headquarters and Service Battalion, MARFORPAC. “Typically the average speaker gives the same standard brief. But a comedian creates an interactive crowd and everyone can have fun with it.”
Due to the approaching Memorial Day weekend, one of the three holidays associated with an increase in traffic accidents, Steve Verret, a comedian and traffic safety specialist, volunteered to give the brief and turned what is typically an hour of service members fighting to stay awake into 90 minutes of non-stop laughter and audience participation.
Verret’s skits, while entertaining, also gave the attendees information that isn’t typically given at a standard driving safety brief but was still educational and promoted safe driving habits, such as wearing a seat belt.
“I hear a lot of excuses for not wearing a seat belt,” he said. “Three of the big ones are they’re uncomfortable, I don’t want to wrinkle my clothes or I don’t plan on getting into a wreck, but there is no way to plan for something like a drunk driver coming at you head-on.”
If the seat belt in a vehicle is to too high, the vehicle can be taken to a car dealership where it can be adjusted, free of charge, he said. If drivers don’t want to wrinkle their clothes, a handkerchief or towel placed between the seat belt and the driver’s body will prevent it as well.
“People don’t understand how much force is put on there bodies when they get into even a low-speed accident,” Verret said. “Being in a 15-mph accident without a seatbelt is like someone hitting you with a sledge hammer. A 30-mph accident is like falling from a three story building.”
Another consideration when driving is the color of a driver’s car. Though red, yellow and white cars are more likely to receive tickets, because they are more noticeable, they are also the least likely to be in a car accident, while dark colored vehicles are less likely to receive a ticket but are more likely to be in an accident, according to Verret.
“The whole show was really good,” said Staff Sgt. Jesus Ramos, the MARFORPAC substance abuse control officer. “He improvised a lot of his jokes. It was much better than a lecture and I would suggest his show to every unit throughout the Corps.”
Though the crowd loved him, it’s Verret who performs the safety briefs out of love and admiration for the military.
“My uncle, George, plays his bugle every time a service member dies, and my mother lost two of her brothers in World War II,” he said. “I was raised to respect the military, and when I was given the opportunity to serve in this way I jumped on it.
“To civilians like me, who honor, respect and admire Marines, losing any service member because he was careless in a personal vehicle is a waste. If you’re going to make a mistake, don’t make it in your vehicle.”
Commanding officers interested in Verret performing for their unit can contact him at 800-775-5233 or at SteveVerret@sbcglobal.net.