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Post-traumatic stress causes increase in military crash rate

Following a review of the driving records of members of the military before and after deployments, military insurer USAA found that there was a 13 percent increase in car accidents in which the military members were at fault. The car crashes were especially common during the first six months after the troops had returned from a deployment.

In sum, there were 48 members of the military killed in fatal car accidents in Maryland and across the U.S. in 2011. This was the highest number of military motor vehicle accident fatalities in three years, and researchers believe that one common ailment is to blame for the increase: post-traumatic stress disorder.

Previously, military officials blamed any post-deployment increase in car accidents on troops' erratic or irresponsible driving. But now, with the increased focus on the post-traumatic stress disorder that is affecting so many veterans of both recent and earlier wars, officials believe that the disorder may also be responsible for the increased driving difficulties.

Specifically, researchers believe that PTSD may affect the driving skills and behaviors of troops that served in the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan more than veterans of earlier wars. This is because troops serving in those wars lived with a daily risk of death or injury from roadside bombs and other hazards on the road. As a result, many experience fear or apprehension while driving down roads in Baltimore or their hometown.

Although many universities and veterans programs have begun long-term studies, there has only been minimal research into this issue. Hopefully, veterans do not have to wait until their completion to receive treatment for the driving and other issues caused by post-traumatic stress disorder.

Source: The New York Times, "Back From War, Fear and Danger Fill Driver's Seat," James Dao, Jan. 10, 2012

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