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Returning military personnel at higher risk for car crashes

Virginia is a state with a proud military tradition. The home of George Washington and Robert E. Lee has produced millions of soldiers, sailors and other members of the armed forces in its history. And few, if any, other states can rival the pride and appreciation residents of Virginia have for the military and the troops.

Many Virginians have served in dangerous areas over the last decade, and thankfully many of them are coming home or have already come home to their native state. But researchers are now getting a handle on one side effect of spending time in a war zone that seems to spill over into civilian life: the propensity for military personnel and veterans to get into more car accidents than the norm.

A study performed by a major insurer for military families has shown that the numbers are significant: about a 13 percent increase in accidents by returning troops for which they are at fault. The most dramatic figures are for Army veterans, whose accident rates skyrocket 23 percent in the first six months after they return from their deployment.

Much of the propensity for crashes comes from the fact that many veterans are still accustomed to driving in war-torn areas, where coming to a complete stop and signaling turns in advance are often not viable options. One veteran said he tended to drive in the center lane wherever possible because he thought a bag or box on the side of the road could be an explosive device. He would also turn without warning when he felt as if someone were following him.

One professor of public health said that while the military does a good job of training soldiers how to drive in combat situations, it falls short in reconditioning them to drive under normal domestic conditioning for when they return.

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

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