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Combat vets suffer comparatively high rate of car accidents

Ohio has a lot of military veterans, including a sizable number of service members who are either back home on deployment or have returned permanently from combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Veterans who have experienced battle often suffer from a variety of lingering — sometimes permanent — stresses associated with that experience. Numerous studies indicate that returning combat vets often suffer from traumatic head injuries — known as the “signature wound” in the Middle East conflicts — and other maladies, including post-traumatic stress disorder. The comparatively high rate of suicide for returning war vets is well documented.

So, too, is the high rate of car accidents they are involved in and the severity of the outcomes. According to a program manager for the Veterans Administration (VA), motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for vets in the first year they are back home.

When compared to drivers in the general population, the disparity is pronounced, even alarming. Returning Middle East vets have a 75 percent higher chance of dying in an accident.

Says Ronald Medford, a senior administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: “It troubles me to tell you that once you get them home safely, they are coming home to risk of death and injury on our roadways.”

The VA refuses to be passive about that. It conducts a campaign that helps re-train vet drivers back in the United States, and administration officials are working with mental health experts to apprise them of driving issues that face some service members.

Source: AOL Autos, “Tragedy on wheels: Why returning vets are in frequent car crashes” Oct. 11, 2011