I’ll never forget an experience I had while serving as a duty driver in Gulfport Mississippi, while I was waiting for my company to form up and ship out to Guantanamo. At Gulfport’s Navy Mobilization and Processing Site (NMPS), a lot of reservists processed through on their way to and from deployments. A lot of my driving was using a bus or a 16 passenger van to pick-up or drop-off reservists at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport.
One early morning, at around 0600, I was driving a single reservist to the airport for his final flight home after his year-long deployment. I turned onto Highway 49 in the van and began driving in the right-hand lane.
The reservist was a male E-6 that I had seen around NMPSbefore. In the office, he was mostly quiet, but I remembered him for making lame jokes and smiling a lot.
After driving less than a quarter mile, the E-6 began yelling at me.
“What are you, crazy? What are you doing?”
After a moment, the E-6 realized where we were and explained that in Iraq, you didn’t drive anywhere near the sides of the road for fear of IEDs.
For the rest of that drive, I tried to use middle lanes as best as I could, but the final road leading up to the airport had only a single lane going in each direction. The E-6 did not yell at me during the last few minutes on that road, but his posture and white-knuckle grip on his seatbelt betrayed his anxiety. I remember feeling that he was going to have a hard time adjusting when he got home.
That petty officer, and tens of thousands of other Veterans, would have to suffer through the anxiety of readjusting to normal driving when he got home.
In 2010, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) observed that service members returning from deployment were getting into more traffic accidents. To better understand the situation, USAA conducted a study that focused on accident trends among service members, before and after deployment. The study revealed a 13% overall increase in at fault accidents in the first six months post-deployment. The increase ranged from 12% to 36%, depending on the number of deployments a service member had.
Recently, USAA developed an online assessment tool that helps service members and Veterans stay sharp behind the wheel. USAA’s Tips for Driving After Deployment helps Veterans stay safe behind the wheel. The online resource is available to USAA members and their families only; family members can take a separate assessment based on their observations of the service member.
If taking more precautions for your safety and the safety of your family weren’t enough, USAA is offering an even bigger incentive to utilize their driving tool. USAA will pay $25 to eligible members who take the assessment at usaa.com within six months after returning from deployment.
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Military Connection: USAA Offers Driving Tips and Reward: By Joe Silva