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Veterans at risk in reckless driving car accidents

There have been countless stories in the news over the past few years about the various challenges facing veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The wars in the Middle East have been known for their high degree of violence and for the incredible struggle that many returning troops face when they come back to the United States.

One of the lesser-known safety issues facing returning troops are car and motorcycle accidents. There has been a documented rise in veterans involved in car accidents, many of them with alcohol or speeding as a factor, indicating that there has been an increase in reckless driving behavior among veterans.

The prevalence of roadside bombs in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars seem to have had a major influence on the driving behavior of veterans. In order to stay safe and properly avoid roadside bombs and other possible hazards, drivers in the war zone must use evasive tactics. Back in the states, those evasive tactics are at odds with the normal flow of traffic and the much higher density of buildings, streetlights, and other physical barriers.

Still, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been slow to react to the growing problem of veterans being injured from car accidents. A recent program has begun to identify specific veterans who may be at risk and helping them re-develop their driving skills. However, they have been reluctant to participate in any large-scale studies of the issue.

An occupational therapy researcher has been working to understand and find a way to treat the reckless driving behavior, but told reporters that it has taken three years to get cooperation from military bases to access soldiers. She also added that the driving issues are more likely a reintegration problem, rather than linked to other common health issues facing veterans such as traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Only a few Veterans Administration facilities provide services aimed to solve this particular problem.

Source: Austin American-Statesman, “After returning home, many veterans get into motor vehicle accidents,” Sept. 30, 2012

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