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USAA finds military members need more help driving upon return

The USAA Property and Casualty Insurance Group, an insurance company that covers many military families, began to study the driving records of military member back in January 2007. They looked at 158,000 soldiers over the course of three years (and 171,000 total deployments), scrutinizing a six-month period before a deployment and after the return from deployment to see if there was any difference in a soldier's car accident rate.

With the three-year survey complete, the USAA recently released their findings: the military members they surveyed saw a 13% increase in their car accident rate after returning from an overseas deployment.

So what are the reasons for this phenomenon with military members on the roads once they get back to the U.S.? Some professionals are saying that soldiers still utilize warzone driving habits (remaining in motion in traffic, driving fast, quick or sudden turns) in an instinctual way, even after they come back to relatively calm streets of the U.S.

"Things like obeying traffic signals and coming to a full and complete stop -- those aren't good in a war zone," said one professor of public health at the University of Minnesota. "Moving targets are harder to hit."

One military veteran, who left Iraq in 2006, echoed the hectic nature of driving for a military member. "I want to drive as close to the middle as I can because subconsciously if I see a box or some trash on the side of the road I am thinking it will explode," he said. "Sometimes I get a feeling someone is following me and I just turn. Something will set me off."

The Navy (3% increase in accident rate after a deployment) and Air Force (2%) were the least affected branches of the U.S. military. The Marines (12.5%) were behind the most affected group -- the Army (23%).

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Troops back from deployment more likely to cause car accidents," Jerry Hirsch, April 24, 2012

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