Some Returning Vets Drive Like Their Lives Depend on It

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For some troops returning from deployment, transitioning back to civilian life involves road rage, and trying to shake the idea that the Toyota Corolla in the next lane is trying to blow you to bits. The United Services Automobile Association has found that troops back from deployment had "13 percent more at-fault accidents" or, more simply, were more likely to get into accidents in the six months after their return than in the six months before they were deployed.  Karen Jowers of the Military Times reports

Soldiers experienced the highest increase of at-fault accidents, at 23%, compared with the drivers' experiences before the deployment. Marines experienced a 12.5% increase in at-fault accidents; sailors, 3%, and airmen, 2%.

Those who had deployed three or more times saw a 36% increase in at-fault accidents. Troops younger than 22 had the biggest increase in accidents, with a 25% increase, compared to a 7.5% increase in those older than 29.

The cause isn't necessarily PTSD, an expert in occupational therapy told Jowers. "Those with PTSD and TBI may indeed have these behaviors, but these are seen throughout the returning soldier population," the expert said. "We look at this as a reasonable carryover of ingrained maneuvers and anxieties. These are things that kept people alive." 

These "things" are habits like speeding up to reduce time in transit and maneuvering away from heavy traffic--using shoulders of highways and into lanes of oncoming traffic to do so. "If you can picture being in gridlock here and then knowing the rule of thumb is to never sit next to one vehicle for more than a split second, you kind of think 'how would I get out of a situation like that,' even in the U.S?" an Iraq veteran, Retired Army Chief Master Sgt. Todd Nelson told The Houston Chronicle's Sig Christenson. "What drastic measures would I need to do to get out of that situation?"

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Christenson also reports on Nelson's fear of the rather un-intimidating Toyota Corolla (Corolla drivers, it's not personal), because in Kabul compact cars like the Corolla are often used by bombers. In October of 2010, Ravi Somaiya wrote in the Daily Beast about how insurgents all over the world love the Toyota's compact pick-up truck, the Hilux, and you have to look no further than earlier this month when suicide bombers in Kabul killed at least 16 with their explosive-filled Toyota.

"We had to drive like our lives depended on it because we really don't know out of all the stupid yellow and white Toyota Corollas which one is the bad guy," Todd Nelson told The Chronicle. "And, so, you have to assume that everyone is the bad guy."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.