Combat veterans' next risk proves to be going into traffic
For men and women who have fought in the nation's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, death behind the wheel is becoming another lethal aftereffect of combat.
After they leave military service, veterans of the two wars have a 75 percent higher rate of fatal motor vehicle accidents than do civilians. Troops still in uniform have a higher risk of crashing their cars in the months immediately after returning from deployment than in the months immediately before. People who have had multiple tours to combat zones are at highest risk for traffic accidents.
The phenomenon has been revealed by multiple pieces of evidence — research as well as observations of soldiers, veterans and counselors.
The most common explanation is that soldiers bring back driving habits that were lifesaving in war zones but are dangerous on America's roads. They include racing through intersections, straddling lanes, swerving on bridges and, for some, not wearing seat belts because they hinder a rapid escape.
That's probably not the whole story, however. Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, suffered by thousands of veterans, increases aggressive driving. Drunken driving and thrill-seeking are also more common after combat, according to a few studies and the testimony of many veterans.
If further research supports the observations, motor vehicle crashes will join suicide and interpersonal violence as a fatal, if indirect, consequence of the war on terrorism.
Motor vehicle crashes have long been a serious problem in the military armed services. From 1999 through 2012, a period spanning peacetime and the two wars, as many active-duty military personnel died in noncombat motor vehicle crashes both on and off duty (4,423) as were killed in the Iraq war (4,409).
War, however, worsens the problem.
Men who served in the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan have a 76 percent higher rate of dying in vehicle crashes, and women a 43 percent higher rate, than similar people in the general population, according to an unpublished study by Han Kang, an epidemiologist with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The same phenomenon was seen in Gulf War veterans and took five years to dissipate.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Federal injunction stops Arizona from enforcing policy of denying driver’s licenses to young immigrants
- Car plows into crowd in California, killing 3
- Harvard study bolsters link between pollution, autism
- Social Security yanked from deported Nazis
- Federal group will aim to instill police-public trust
- Traffic camera use upheld in Ohio
- Panel review says Secret Service ‘starved for leadership’
- 2014 death sentences, executions plummet
- Wis. girls who stabbed classmate deemed competent for trial
- Meningitis suspects to be freed from jail while awaiting trial in 64 deaths
- Obama, now unbridled, quickly checking off to-do list