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Veterans’ Propensity for Fatal Car Accidents

Many young men suffer from a feeling of invincibility that leads to poor choices behind the wheel. The problem may be exacerbated for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Veterans are substantially more likely than non-veterans to be involved in a fatal car accident. Government leaders are attempting to address this serious problem which has life and death implications for veterans and for everyone who shares the roads with them.

The problem afflicted veterans for many years. Vietnam veterans died in car accidents nearly two times as often as non-veterans. Gulf war veterans fared slightly better, suffering fatal car accidents between 30% and 50% as often as non-veterans. Veterans from our current conflicts are involved in fatal motor vehicle accidents 75% more often.

The Veterans Administration, Department of Transportation and the Department of Defense are hoping to reverse, or at least curb this trend. They have identified several key factors that may play a role in the increased rate of fatal accidents. First, many of the accidents included risky driving behaviors. While aggressive driving may be advisable in a combat situation, here it can lead to unnecessary risks and catastrophic consequences. A second factor is that of undetected brain injuries. Concussions have created headlines in connection with famous athletes, but veterans are also likely to suffer the after-effects of a head trauma. Blackouts and slowed reaction time can be fatal when driving a motor vehicle.

Health officials are hoping to make veterans and the people who care for them aware of the potential for injury behind the wheel. They are using simulators to help veterans regain the skills necessary to operate a motor vehicle safely. Hopefully, with greater attention paid to the problem, veterans will suffer fewer fatal accidents here at home.

Source: AOL, “Tragedy On Wheels: Why Returning Vets Are In Frequent Car Crashes,” Sharon Silke Carty, 13 October 2011

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