By LEO SHANE III
Stars and Stripes
Published: April 23, 2012
WASHINGTON — Just a few weeks after his 2005 deployment to the Middle East ended, Chief Petty Officer Ron Verdoza smashed his SUV into a neighbor’s car.
Three years later, after returning from Afghanistan, he backed his Mustang into the wall of his garage.
“Both times, I just wasn’t focused on driving like I needed to be,” he said.
A new study released by USAA this week echoes that sentiment. USAA, which provides auto insurance to the military community, found a 13 percent jump in at-fault accidents for troops in the first six months after returning from deployment, compared with the six months before they deployed. Drivers with three or more overseas tours saw a 36 percent increase in accidents.
The three-year study is being shared with military officials and traffic safety experts in an effort to find ways to help returning troops stay safe while driving.
Researchers said that most of the accidents were caused by objects in the roadway and “losing control of the vehicle,” both indications that troops aren’t fully prepared for the pressures of civilian driving after lengthy stints overseas.
Scanning streets for signs of roadside bombs, for example, can lead servicemembers to ignore road signs and stoplights on U.S. roads. Drivers used to asserting their right of way in a Humvee convoy can find it irritating and unnerving to get stuck in traffic.
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