When men and women bravely choose to serve our nation, they understand that their service comes with substantial risks. Before going into combat, they are well educated on the physical, mental and emotional challenges they may face in the field. However, they may not be fully aware of the risks they face when they return home. Recent studies indicate that those veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq are now at significantly higher risk of being involved in fatal car accidents than the general population is.
How high is their risk of dying in fatal motor vehicle accidents? It is an astonishing 75 percent higher than the risk faced by civilians. In addition, this accident risk rate increases when vets have served multiple tours of duty in combat zones specifically and is highest in the months immediately following their homecoming.
It is therefore critical for returning vets to understand just why their risk rates are higher and how they can prevent themselves from being involved in these kinds of devastating crashes. First, it can take time to readjust to American road rules and customs. After vets have been driving around combat zones, they are used to driving aggressively. It is generally a good idea for vets to avoid driving too much until they have begun to readjust to life on American roads as passengers and as drivers on short trips.
In addition, is important to understand that driving may be a trigger for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depending on a vet's individual responses. As a result, it may be best to seek counseling for any PTSD-related responses to driving.
Finally, it is important for vets to avoid driving aggressively or drunkenly as a response to stress. These are common behaviors in vets returning from combat zones and they are too often fatal decisions.
Experiencing difficulty driving responsibly and safely upon return from a combat zone is normal. As a result, it is critical for vets to seek help and to drive minimally until they have readjusted. The lives of both vets themselves and every other motorist on the road may depend on this approach.
Source: The Washington Post, "Motor vehicle crashes: A little-known risk to returning veterans," David Brown, May 16, 2013