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Military vets more likely to cause car crashes in first six months back in U.S.

All drivers in California want to assume that other drivers on the road are sensible and are striving to be as safe as possible. But, as a recent study involving military veterans shows, experience can be a bad teacher and can lead to more car crashes.

USAA Property & Casualty Insurance Group found a 13 percent increase in car accidents where a military veteran was at fault. People enlisted in the Army and Marines had the highest increase in auto accidents in the six months after returning to the U.S., with Army vets increasing 23 percent and Marine vets increasing 12.5 percent.

The three-year study looked at the driving records of almost 160,000 troops in the six months before being sent overseas and compared them to records in the six months after returning home. It also found that military officers had lower rates of car crashes than enlisted troops, and troops under 22 years old had more accidents than older troops.

So, what is the reason for the increased incidence of serious car accidents caused by military members?

Researchers say that they are probably "engaging in survival driving habits," which are very necessary in a war zone but cause serious trouble on the streets of our country. These survival tactics include not stopping in traffic, driving too fast and making sudden or unpredictable turns. Military vets followed in the study often reported feeling anxious in heavy traffic, when someone appeared to be following them, or when seeing some object near the roadside.

If the U.S. military spends much time training troops how to drive to stay safe in war zones, as is reported, shouldn't it also spend adequate time helping veterans re-condition themselves to driving in their safer home states? After all, our veterans deserve to be safe, as do other innocent drivers.

Our decorated and hard-working veterans certainly deserve our thanks for their service, but what should be done if they are proving to be a danger to other motorists on California's and the nation's roads?

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

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