(CNSNews.com) - Professional chauffeurs and other drivers of armored vehicles for overseas State Department personnel should undergo mandatory safe-driving training, the State Department's Office of Inspector General (OIG) said in a newly released report.
OIG found that from January 2010 to September 2015, operators of armored vehicles at U.S. missions overseas were involved in 773 "mishaps," and 469 of them (almost 60 percent) were deemed preventable.
(A preventable mishap is defined as an incident "involving an official-use vehicle where the vehicle operator, regardless of fault, failed to exercise every reasonable precaution to prevent the mishap.")
Twelve of the 773 mishaps resulted in 13 fatalities; and 23 mishaps sent a total of 26 people to the hospital, although the report does not list specific cases. The 773 mishaps resulted in total property damage of $4,550,483, of which $3,883,816 (85 percent) was to the U.S. government vehicles themselves.
The State Department provides specialized driver training, but it is mandatory only for people who drive high-ranking personnel, such as chiefs of mission/principal officers, none of whom were involved in the 12 fatal mishaps.
The report found that armored vehicle dynamics were a contributing cause in 83 percent of the mishaps involving fatalities. Because they are so heavy, armored vehicles cannot stop as quickly as other cars, so braking distances must be increased to a minimum of four car lengths, even at low speeds.
The report notes that armored vehicle drivers must allow for greater reaction time for turning and maneuvering, avoiding hard or unnecessary turns. And armored vehicles should not be driven at more than 70 miles an hour "under any circumstances," the report said.
The State Department's overseas armored vehcile program is intended to protect mission personnel from terror attacks, civil unrest, and acts of war, the report noted.
As many as 4,700 U.S. armored vehicles are in service worldwide, and another 783 are awaiting shipment, repairs or assignment, said the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
The armored vehicle program’s annual budget is $31.6 million.
The report concludes with the following recommendation: The Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing, and Innovation, in coordination with the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, should establish a mandatory training requirement on armored vehicle safe-driving techniques for all overseas professional chauffeurs and incidental drivers who operate such vehicles."