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Military vets face greater crash risk

With Memorial Day coming up on Monday it's a great time for all Americans to take a moment to honor and remember the servicemen and women who have died or sustained serious injuries while fighting for our country. However, as many military veterans and their families know, even those who return from combat without physical injury face significant struggles as they readjust to civilian life.

Suicide is the number one cause of death among military veterans, highlighting the importance of taking care of our veterans when they return. But there's another serious risk to those who have fought in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - one that killed more members of the military between 1999 and 2012 than the Iraq war.

Military veterans, particularly those who only recently returned from active duty, are at a disproportionate risk of car accidents. Veterans of the two wars have a 75 percent higher chance of being involved in a fatal motor vehicle accident than civilian drivers.

In the military it is common for those operating a motor vehicle to straddle multiple lanes, speed through intersections or swerve on bridges. These techniques help active duty servicemembers stay alive but they can have the opposite effect when troops return home. In addition, in the military motorists may get in the habit of not wearing seatbelts, which helps them escape a situation quickly if they need to. However, as we know, in civilian driving seatbelts frequently save lives.

Those who have been injured in a motor vehicle accident may be able to bring a civil claim for damages including medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.

Source: The Washington Post, "Motor vehicle crashes: A little-known risk to returning veterans," David Brown, May 16, 2013

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