Driving can be a true challenge for returning veterans

Veterans of our armed forces often face a variety of challenges when they return from tours of combat. One complication many don’t know about is an affected ability to drive. Studies have found that veterans returning from duty often feel stressed by driving and have a higher incidence of motor vehicle accidents.

Their driving problems are now being attributed to post-traumatic stress disorder or as a symptom of a traumatic brain injury. This can cause drivers to perceive threats where there are none, particularly when they encounter overpasses, tunnels, debris or construction areas.

One insurance company, USAA, has noticed the trend. In one study covering the years 2007 to 2010, it was noted that car accidents in which service members were at fault increased by 13 percent after deployments. Accidents were most common within the six months after an overseas tour, according to the New York Times.

Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are particularly unique, experts say, because their combat experiences frequently involved roadside bombs and other major dangers on the road.

One woman, a 60-year-old veteran who carried cash to Iraqi reconstructions projects outside American bases, has found driving upon her return to the States to be extremely difficult. She says her whole driving behavior changed and she feels constantly anxious while driving.

The woman has participated in a clinical trial in the hopes that therapies can be tested and developed to help veterans in a similar position. Insurance companies and the armed services are also hoping to expand education and research on the issue.

Source: New York Times, “Back from war, fear and danger fill driver’s seat,” James Dao, Jan. 10, 2012