They survived combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. But all too many returning military veterans are meeting untimely deaths in fatal car accidents here at home. Statistics show that those coming back to the U.S. after serving in such theatres of war experience fatal car accidents at a rate that is a full 75 percent more than other ,motorists. As the number of military service men and women returning home increases, so does their risk of fatal accidents.
Some believe that a factor in this troubling statistic may be that some returning members of the military may have acquired dangerous driving habits in combat zones, driving fast in an aggressive manner and zooming through intersections. Some also fail to wear their seat belt, because in combat circumstances a swift exit from a vehicle may be necessary. Others say that some soldiers returning from stressful deployments may engage in thrill seeking or drive while intoxicated.
The risk of death to returning combat veterans from car accidents is actually about as great as the risk of death in combat. From 1999 through the end of 2012, around 4,423 members of the military died in fatal vehicle accidents not connected with combat, combining accidents on and off duty. That is actually more deaths of U.S. soldiers than the 4,409 that occurred during the war in Iraq.
Gender evidently also plays a role, as returning male veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan have a 76 percent greater risk of dying in a car crash than other drivers, while for similar female veterans, the rate is 43 percent higher, but far less than for male vets.
Such accidents, of course, may also injure or kill other motorists and passengers. And the rate of accidental deaths among veterans by no means indicates that they are responsible for all the accidents that they are involved in. Anyone injured in such an accident, whether a veteran or not, should seek legal counsel to determine whether they have a viable personal injury claim.