Veterans' driving gets dangerous after return from deployment

Posted on in Car Accidents

Military personnel coming home from overseas deployments sometimes have a tough time readjusting to civilian roads. A report released by USAA Property & Casualty Insurance Group says active-duty troops newly returned to California or other states have a high rate of car accidents.

The study examined the driving records of troops between 2007 and 2010, comparing pre- and post-deployment statistics. Records for more than 150,000 service members were scrutinized for the six months before deployment and after the veterans came back. The first six post-war months appear to be the most accident-prone time.

Accidents caused by military personnel shot up 13 percent after troops returned. For soldiers in the Army, the crash rate rose 23 percent. Marines were next with a 12.5 percent hike. Numbers before and after deployment varied only slightly for Navy and Air Force veterans, with hikes of 3 and 2 percent, respectively.

Broken down by military rank and age, the report showed that officers and older troops were the least likely to have problems on the road after a return from service. Enlisted personnel and soldiers below age 22 were involved in more car accidents than their superiors or older military service members.

Observers from inside and outside the military believe that tactical driving habits, ingrained in soldiers to survive during war, are difficult to change. Battle experiences force driving patterns to shift according to safety conditions. Traffic signals and stops are irrelevant to soldiers who need to move to stay alive.

Half of veterans surveyed in a separate University of Minnesota study felt discomfort in boxed-in traffic or when other vehicles approached too quickly. Thirty percent had been told their driving habits had become dangerous.

One soldier suggested that the military should spend as much time re-acclimating veterans to civilian roads as it does preparing soldiers to drive on battlefields, which could reduce the chance of serious car accidents that injure themselves or others on the road.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Troops back from deployment more likely to cause car accidents," Jerry Hirsch, April 24, 2012

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