Life can be tough for U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Post traumatic stress disorder must make everyday tasks hell to deal with.

Not the least of which is re-adjusting to American road rules. In Iraq, the goal of the morning commute is to reach the destination alive. The more speed the better, and anything not moving out of the way quickly enough gets plowed into the pavement.

Many returning military personnel find it difficult to forget the lessons they've learned on hostile foreign roads. Over there, smart drivers follow the center line to avoid IEDs on the shoulders. Turn signals only give the enemy advance notice of your next move, and stopping at intersections makes you an easy target. When back in the states, those tactics are still effective for negotiating traffic, but aren't appreciated so much by fellow drivers.

A new study by insurer USAA (which serves members of the military and their families) shows that on average, returning troops had 13 percent more at-fault accidents than before they left. U.S. Army personnel showed the largest change at 23 percent, with Marines showing 12.3 percent increase.

Fortunately, USAA says it has no plans to raise rates in response to the study's results. It's also sharing the data with researchers and traffic safety experts in hopes of finding a solution.
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America's military troops who are surviving the hazards of foreign battlefields are returning only to find new risks on domestic roadways. According to a just-released study by USAA, troops coming off deployment had 13% more at-fault auto accidents compared to their time before deployment.

Losing control of the vehicle was the most common type of accident and was far more prevalent among young enlisted service members than officers or noncommissioned officers, USAA found after reviewing at-fault auto accidents among active-duty members who saw more than 171,000 deployments.

The "Returning Warriors" study, which covered accidents reported from 2007-2010, also found that enlisted military members were 22 increased risk for noncommissioned officers and a 3.5% increased risk for officers. But once service members had been home for six months - and had time to readjust to the rules of the American road - those accident rates declined.

"Our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line when they deploy in service of this country, but they can face new threats to their safety when they come home and get behind the wheel," says retired US Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, president of USAA Property and Casualty Insurance Group. "We care deeply about all our returning warriors and we want to do what we can to keep them safe. We hope this study can help shine a light on this challenge and bring people together so we can understand it better and work toward solutions."

As part of that effort, USAA is sharing its findings with military safety commanders in all branches of the military to help them raise awareness of the challenge some service members have transitioning back to civilian driving. "This issue is not very well known in the public eye, and there's no silver-bullet solution. You have to start with awareness," says George Drew, USAA's assistant vice president of Underwriting.

USAA member Brad Hammond knows about these challenges from personal experience. He was stationed in the hotly contested cities of Mosul, Fallujah and Tal Afar where his armored Stryker Brigade came under routine attack. Roadside bombs and vehicle-borne explosives were routine threats. He drove accordingly.

"My driving style and the way we were taught was to be purely 100% aggressive," explains the former Army specialist. Since being inside a vehicle was so dangerous, they tried to "get from point A to point B as quickly as possible with the least amount of our casualties as possible. It was get going, be there yesterday."

Hammond said he disregarded traffic signals, ignored speed limits and didn't stop when he caused accidents, which happened once when he rammed a dump truck out of his way with a 19-ton Stryker Combat Vehicle, causing the dump truck, suspected of being an insurgent blockade runner, to crash onto its side.

He carried that driving style when he returned to Denver, Colo., where he continued to drive aggressively and ignore speed limits. Hammond says he's racked up numerous speeding tickets and scares his wife, Dani, "all the time" with his driving.

With so many troops returning home, stories like Hammond's are not uncommon. So USAA is sharing the study with academics and traffic-safety experts to give them hard data as they look at programs and solutions. USAA also wants to ensure that members are aware of the behind-the-wheel risks for returning service members so they have the information to talk with returning family members.

But the company has no plans to raise auto insurance rates based on the data. Additionally, no information about individual members was released or reviewed as part of the study. "We're highly, highly protective of our USAA member information," Drew says. Raising awareness of the findings, especially among military safety commanders, was the priority, he explained.

"In December, 45,000 troops came home," he adds. "We all need to help our returning warriors as they adjust to driving on US roadways. All the things you do to survive in combat can put you at significant risk on US highways."


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 66 Comments
      454
      • 2 Years Ago
      It's got to be hard to unlearn instinct. IF you take a second to think on the battlefield that could cost you your life. You can't just turn those instincts off once you get home.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @454
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      OptimusPrimeRib
      • 2 Years Ago
      Besides driving over the speed limit this sounds exactly like the drivers in North Carolina
      Jake
      • 2 Years Ago
      Well, I drive around Killeen, TX all the time, which has one of the largest army posts around and plenty of veterans of Iraq and Afgan on the roads and haven't seen any unusual behavior on the roads. Lots of old Crown Vics and Grand Marqs with enormous chrome wheels though.
      Autobiologist
      • 2 Years Ago
      Welcome home soldiers! How do you feel kill thousands of innocent people in Iraq, kill president of a country and his kids, and take their oil for our gas guzzlers. Could you find the nuclear bombs of Saddam? Did you export democracy and freedom to Midde East? We are proud of you! Now it is time to drive freely in your home roads! Enjoy it!
        Big Rocket
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Autobiologist
        @Autobiologist: Did you forget UN weapons inspections were a condition of the ceasefire for the 1st Gulf War? All that Sadaam Hussein had to do was allow the UN weapons inspectors to do their jobs, but at every step of the way, he thwarted their attempts to prove his lack of WMD. Did you forget how Sadaam Hussein blew off the peace process and brought this war on himself and his country? If you have a probelm with all the civilian deaths, blame the guy who started the war. Blame Sadaam Hussein.
          Autobiologist
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Big Rocket
          You mean, Saddam bluffed and we have right to KILL thousands of innocent people. Saddam bluffed, we killed! Which picture looks terrible for you?
          Big Rocket
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Big Rocket
          @Autobiologist: Saddam didn't just bluff, he violated the terms of the ceasefire. The international community gave him plenty of opportunity to return to the peace process, plenty of opportunity to comply with UN weapons inspection, and plenty of warning about what the dire consequences would be if he rejected the peace process. And yet he still rejected the peace process. So yeah, he was responsible for the 2nd Gulf War, and the civilian deaths in that conflict. And even with all these civilian deaths you imagine the coalition forces are responsible for, don't forget Saddam himself killed a lot more civilians during his decades of totalitarian dictatorship, and foreign fighters from Iran, Syria, etc, also killed a lot more civilians in the insurgency. But hey, don't let that get in the way of your blind hate for US soldiers, W Bush, Republicans, the Tea Party, and so on.
          Big Rocket
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Big Rocket
          @Autobiologist: If the US really invaded Iraq because of oil, why are oil prices higher than ever in the history of this country? Where was the benefit to the US economy from the war in Iraq? If it really was a war for oil, then why didn't the US invade Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Canada, and other oil nations? Saddam started the 1st Gulf War, willfully violated the peace treaty, and started the 2nd Gulf War. What other country, oil nation or non-oil nation, violated any peace treaty with the international community? That is the real reason why no other totalitarian regime has been attacked. The 2nd Gulf War started not because Iraq had oil, not because Saddam was a dictator, but because Saddam violated the peace treaty. He was the one who started the war, and he was the one responsible for the civilian deaths.
        Autobiologist
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Autobiologist
        You and I can not benefit of oil but US and British oil companies can. You are smart guy! İf you search thoroughly which big making business in Iraq you will find the answer? One simple question to you! 1-North Korea has a totalitarian regime 2- They have nuke bombs, too That means US has two most popular ingredient to make a war cake. Do you think is it gonna happen? And why?
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        Justin Campanale
        • 2 Years Ago
        Don't feed the troll. This is probably just vwfailsagain.
        ryan
        • 2 Years Ago
        I didnt realize there was people out there that could be that cruel and dumb towards people who protect there right to be cruel and dumb.
        Camaroman101
        • 2 Years Ago
        losers? seriously?
        caddy-v
        • 2 Years Ago
        If this country were ever invaded I'd be willing to bet you'd be one of those brave keyboard warriors hiding in a crawl space somewhere cowardly crying like a little baby and praying for one of those soldiers you so detest to come and save your worthless life. Sad thing about it, they wouldn't think twice about pulling you to safety only for you to spit on them in thanks. Let me guess. Your college professor was a Viet-Nam era draft dodging hippy that hid crying in his closet.
        NightFlight
        • 2 Years Ago
        Losers? Holy ____. Either you missed inserting a sarcasm tag or you shouldn't even call yourself an American. That is honestly one of the most disgusting posts I've ever read on Autoblog.
        Jerome
        • 2 Years Ago
        Apparently this coward lacked the stones to wear the uniform. Maybe johnny if you actually had a pair the recruiters would not have laughed at you. As for your college professor, he/she/it is the reason 90% of today's high schools are filled with cannon fodder. Neither one of you are capable of doing the job.
        Big Rocket
        • 2 Years Ago
        @JohnEnzo: Your college professor must have neglected to teach you what really happened, how Saddam Hussein started the 1st Gulf War, then broke the peace treaty and started the 2nd Gulf War. Get a refund for your college tuition, because you received brainwashing instead of a real education in college.
          Big Rocket
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Big Rocket
          @Kris Ford: I am 2 days late with my reply (and you were 1 day late with yours), but here it is: If you bothered to read my post just above yours, not to mention my several replies to Autobiologist, you might have realized the 2nd Gulf War in Iraq was all about holding Saddam responsible for violating the ceasefire of the 1st Gulf War. Aside from those who want to falsely discredit the war, did anyone claim the 2nd Gulf War started in order to bring democracy to Iraq? Of course there are dictatorships in other parts of the world, but did those other dictatorships violate any peace treaty or ceasefire agreement? Fact: Saddam violated the peace treaty from the 1st Gulf War, he persisted in that violation for months, and he was finally removed from power by an international coalition. In the future, please educate yourself on the facts before mindlessly regurgitating the rhetoric from politicians and the media.
          Big Rocket
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Big Rocket
          @none: Fact: Saddam invaded Kuwait and started the 1st Gulf War. Fact: As a condition of ceasefire, Saddam agreed to UN weapons inspection. Fact: Saddam denied access to UN weapons inspectors. Fact: The UN gave multiple opportunities for Saddam to comply with the terms of the ceasefire. Fact: Saddam continued to deny access to UN weapons inspectors. Fact: An international coalition invaded Iraq after Saddam rejected all diplomacy. Now, which of these facts do you have trouble understanding?
          Kristiyan Dimitrov
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Big Rocket
          @Big Rocket, correct me if I'm wrong, but last time I checked Iraq is in the Middle East not North America - you know, several thousands of miles apart. What the USA had to do with all this? And don't start with protecting the freedom, because there is many, many more places in the world where freedom needs protecting, but I haven't seen USA giving any **** about them. Don't answer, I already know the answer of my question. Just stop being such a hypocrite.
        Just Stuff
        • 2 Years Ago
        Hey A$$, if it wasn't for those "Loser" you and your idiot professor would be speaking in what language (choose German or Japenese here)! It's time losers like you move to another country, try Iraq, I here the weather is nice over there.
        S.
        • 2 Years Ago
        Troll score: 2/10. Try harder next time.
      thedriveatfive
      • 2 Years Ago
      Whats with all the anti soldier rhetoric these days? Anyone who has lived overseas in a developing nation for any length of time can tell you whats happening. The rules are very different. Not listed above is the fact many developing nations have very questionable roads which are both in disrepair and are not wide enough. It forces most sane drivers to go towards the center as sometimes large dropoffs/ pits are on the sides. Also your never quite sure if they very loud old trucks following you can break on time so inherently its best not to stay motionless. Most of all there are no signs so you stop paying attention for them. It think most of this is not that they are soldiers, its that they have lived in a very different driving environment long enough to pick up routines which work there but not here or europe.
        rlog100
        • 2 Years Ago
        @thedriveatfive
        The hippies are in charge and have to view all war through the rhetoric of the vietnam war. One of the key tenets was that all returning soldiers were damaged goods. So instead of casting these things as bad habits from their overseas experience, its given a psychological bent. Of course, the hippies and their children set exit dates in Afgahnistan essentially recreating the Vietnam war. We're there just to say we are. The second they gave up by setting exit dates, the soldiers should have been home in well under a year.
        axiomatik
        • 2 Years Ago
        @thedriveatfive
        What is with you two? What is "anti soldier" about this? Did you notice the source of the data in the picture? "Office of the Surgeon General (Army)" I'm sure the Army's Surgeon General has an anti-soldier bias, makes perfect sense. Did you notice that the article doesn't condemn the soldiers? In fact, it sympathizes with them, stating that it is understandable considering the stress they were under while on-duty. Please get off your high horse and stop looking for ways to be offended.
        Zach Marshall
        • 2 Years Ago
        @thedriveatfive
        Wow, I don't think this is anti-soldier rhetoric as much as it is trying to locate the driving concerns of soldiers when they return home form battle. It's the first step to addressing and understanding behaviors that can indicate PTSD, violent outbursts, and other symptoms of being in the battlefield.
      Danny
      • 2 Years Ago
      Count me in on giving a soldier a break....
      upstategreenie
      • 2 Years Ago
      I wasnt aware soccer moms texting in hemis racing through town to mao mart were all veterans. in fact, actually, NONE of them are....most here racing around in hemis would fail the physical and would have to lose 100 plus pounds first before ever serving. mittens was too busy converting people to his cult to serve. none of his little cultists will ever serve their country..either....I think that is despicable. GOP want a fascist oligarchical theocracy but they cant even serve their own country!! after STARTING fu*(ing wars for oil which owns their a*(es. I always thought the nasty bi(*ches racing around, oblivious to all others, were just spoiled a$$ narcissistic trophy wives who didn't give a sh*( about anybody else!!! and whose only job they have ever had was fu(*ing some rich pr!ck. go figure!! this silly anything for eyeballs article is, as is now to be expected in 'modern' Rome/US, really a rationalization and a generalization all wrapped up into one piece of garbage!!!! if it was really such a big deal bush wouldnt have cut all vets services and treated all vets like garbage after fighting for corporations and their 'precious'. i.e. for their country. I think personally NOBODY can run for President unless they have actually served their country is some capacity. which means all the folks that GOP hate would be contenders. and ANY candidate on dem side would be better as well...here every single driver has their cell permanently affixed to their empty heads and NONE are vets. just aholes. and it is ILLEGAL! nobody gives a sh*(. but install cameras because people are d!cks who ignore crosswalks and lights etc. and it is (wait for it!!!!) 'big govt'.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @upstategreenie
        [blocked]
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        Eric G
        • 2 Years Ago
        Serious question: Have you thought of using marijuana for helping with your PTSD? I have read online that it helps and that some are trying to get it medically in some states, but I haven't heard any personal accounts. I would appreciate your own opinion.
          Sj027
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Eric G
          Marijuana can actually cause negative effects for those suffering from PTSD. THC causes paranoia, it is one of the less fun side-effects of smoking pot. For those with PTSD that is a bad idea, look how many Intervention episodes revolve around a veteran with PTSD self-medicating, and in the process self-destructing.
      zackwatt
      • 2 Years Ago
      Bravo for USAA, they really are the only financial service that truly has their customers at heart.
      MocMyLov
      • 2 Years Ago
      Sounds like your typical Californian.
        tachyon particle
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MocMyLov
        or Canadian driver
          SpikedLemon
          • 2 Years Ago
          @tachyon particle
          Ha! +1
          BG
          • 2 Years Ago
          @tachyon particle
          No, the Canadian drivers are fine, but I was thinking of the nuts in New Orleans, Seattle, or northern New Jersey.
          SloopJohnB
          • 2 Years Ago
          @tachyon particle
          It's not so much Canadian drivers as Mexican trucks...blame NAFTA. That's not to say that the brakes and tires on US trucks are in pristine condition. Some 40% of US trucks pulled over in the DC/MD/VA area on I95 have brake or tire issues. Every summer there's an article on truck inspections on the freeway after some horrendous tractor-trailer or dump truck accident.
      NY EVO X MR GUY
      • 2 Years Ago
      The question should be: How many accidents have they gotten into if any?
        joeboarder108
        • 2 Years Ago
        @NY EVO X MR GUY
        "A new study by insurer USAA (which serves members of the military and their families) shows that on average, returning troops had 13 percent more at-fault accidents than before they left."
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