According to a recent article in The New York Times, returning Veterans face some of their stiffest homecoming challenges behind the wheel and on the road.
Trained on the bomb-ridden roadways of Iraq and Afghanistan to avoid concealed explosives and potential ambushes, many Veterans returning from combat have found it difficult to cope with the less fraught environment on the roads of their own hometowns.
Recent statistics have shown that automobile accidents in which former service members are at fault rise 13 percent following deployments. The accidents are attributed to over-aggressive or over-defensive driving.
“I can’t talk with somebody who is a returned service member without them telling me about driving issues,” Erica Stern, a researcher working with the Pentagon, told The New York Times.
Stern is working with the Defense Department, exploring the problems facing returning Veterans with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as they take to the roads at home.
These issues stem from Veterans reflexively applying the driving techniques learned in combat zones. They often perceiving threats when none are present – a possible symptom of PTSD or TBI.
Therapeutic treatments for Veterans struggling with their driving are still in the early stages of development, as this is a relatively recent phenomenon. Ongoing government-funded studies and surveys hope to develop simple and effective treatment in the near future.