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Experts warn of road dangers for returning veterans

Worrying about a soldier while they are deployed in an overseas battle zone is a common emotion for most Wisconsin residents. They realize the risk these people are in and hope they come through the situation unharmed. But as some service members and counselors are discovering, soldiers may be finding themselves in equally dangerous situations after returning home as well.

According to a Washington Post article this month, veterans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are 75 percent more likely to get involved in a fatal motor vehicle accidents than civilians. While the reasons for this alarming statistic varies on personal situation, the fact that the risk is so high is what has many Wisconsin residents wondering if there is anything they can do to reduce the number of victims.

Depending on the soldier's experience overseas, experts say their will be different contributing factors to accidents.  If the soldier primarily spent their time on a military base and rarely drove a vehicle, then the concern for them would be the "out of practice" reason.  But for soldiers who did operate vehicles overseas, defensive driving techniques learned then do not apply in the states.  Racing through intersections, swerving on bridges, and straddling lanes are all considered to be among the most common reasons for accidents and can often times end in fatalities as well.

While dangerous driving habits can account for a majority of the accidents veterans see, some counselors feel that post-traumatic stress disorder could also be a factor.  The anxiety felt after a deployment can often me quelled with an adreniline rush, which many soldiers achieve by riding motorcycles.  But reckless riding accounts for a large number of fatal motorcycle crashes in the U.S. and is not just a danger to the rider but to other motorists as well.

People who know returning soldiers are urged to speak up and address these driving concerns before the soldier gets behind the wheel.  As for other motorists, recognizing defensive driving could help avoid becoming a victim in these very preventable accidents.

Source: The Washington Post, "Motor vehicle crashes: A little-known risk to returning veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan," David Brown, May 5, 2013

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