Driving on Civilian Roads a Struggle for Recently Returned Soldiers
Add one more item to the list of challenges that returning soldiers face coming home after a deployment: driving on civilian roads.
A new study shows that in their first six months back home, members of the military have 13 percent more at-fault accidents than they did in the six months before they deployed. Enlisted personnel had 22 percent more accidents, non-commissioned officers had 10 percent more and officers 3.5 percent more.
The “Returning Warriors” study was commissioned by USAA, the financial services company that exclusively serves active military, veterans and their families. USAA is also a car insurer, so they had access to all their members’ records. During the course of the three-year study, they examined the before-and-after effects of over 171,000 overseas deployments. Full findings are due to be released soon.
The insurer chalks up the increased number of accidents to a phenomenon known as “carryover,” when returning soldiers bring home driving techniques they needed during deployment. For example, soldiers who had to keep an eye out for potentially deadly roadside bombs may drive more slowly, while those charged with covering as much ground as possible may still have a lead foot. And if military personnel have trained to follow another vehicle in a convoy, chances are they may have trouble yielding to oncoming traffic or stopping at intersections.
Compared to those in the Navy and Air Force, crash rates were far higher for those in the Marines and the Army, who have spent more time behind the wheel in the most recent wars. Additionally, according to claims data, the most common cause of an at-fault accident was losing control of a vehicle. There was also a dramatic increase in crashes related to an “object in the road” which, though vague, suggests that drivers either impacted an obstacle or had an accident while swerving to avoid it.
The study’s authors also found that returning soldiers under age 22 had more than three times higher crash rates than older drivers. Those with multiple deployments also had higher crash rates, and those who spent more time overseas were more likely to be in at-fault accidents.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to un-learn any driving habits – let alone ones that proved to be absolutely necessary for wartime survival.
“Like other traffic safety issues that require behavioral changes, there are no easy solutions with this one,” said retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, president of USAA’s property and casualty insurance group.
Photo: Flickr/Nevada Tumbleweed