Nicolet Law Office, S.C.

VA initiatives could help reduce car accidents for returning soldiers

A 24-year-old army veteran from El Paso sped along a winding road in his 2006 Honda Civic when he lost control of his vehicle, struck a wall and rolled over. A few months earlier, another returning soldier lost control of his motorcycle and crashed into a person's home.

According to many state records, including Wisconsin, hundreds of car accidents happen every year but what is surprising, is that veterans returning home from war zones are more likely to be involved in motor vehicle accidents than the average driver.

Researchers around the nation have concluded that there are two main factors to a majority of the crashes: negligent or reckless driving brought on by PTSD or a need for an adrenaline rush. One psychologist from a VA hospital in California pointed out that many returning veterans who have survived particularly dangerous situations overseas generally seem to have a post-combat invincibility and will find themselves in dangerous driving situations in an attempt at an adrenaline rush.

In some cases, doctors are recognizing the effects that PTSD can have on drivers particularly in high-stress situations that may cause anger or anxiety. A few programs throughout the states, including one in nearby Minnesota, have been aimed at calming the driving anxieties exhibited by some Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Accidents are not simply confined to the soldiers themselves, say many police reports, who have documented dozens of motor vehicle accidents that have involved other vehicles, or pedestrians, that have resulted in injuries or death.

VA hospitals across the nation are attempting to reduce the number of accidents involving returning veterans by addressing driving issues as part of the reintegration process. It is there hope to make this not just a state initiative but a national requirement someday.

Source: Statesman.com, "After returning home, many veterans get into motor vehicle accidents," American-Statesman Investigative Team, Sept. 30, 2012

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