Sunday, January 15, 2012

Veterans, PTSD and Driver Distraction

Two stories tie together. First, from the New York Times:

Back From War, Fear and Danger Fill Driver’s Seat

... For thousands of combat veterans, driving has become an ordeal. Once their problems were viewed mainly as a form of road rage or thrill seeking. But increasingly, erratic driving by returning troops is being identified as a symptom of traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder, or P.T.S.D. — and coming under greater scrutiny amid concerns about higher accident rates among veterans.
The insurance industry has taken notice. In a review of driving records for tens of thousands of troops before and after deployments, USAA, a leading insurer of active-duty troops, discovered that auto accidents in which the service members were at fault went up by 13 percent after deployments. Accidents were particularly common in the six months after an overseas tour, according to the review, which covered the years 2007-2010.
The company is now working with researchers, the armed services and insurance industry groups to expand research and education on the issue. The Army says that fatal accidents — which rose early in the wars — have declined in recent years, in part from improved education. Still, 48 soldiers died in vehicle accidents while off duty last year, the highest total in three years, Army statistics show.
The Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs are also supporting several new studies into potential links between deployment and dangerously aggressive or overly defensive driving. The Veterans Affairs health center in Albany last year started a seven-session program to help veterans identify how war experiences might trigger negative reactions during driving. And researchers in Palo Alto are developing therapies — which they hope to translate into iPhone apps — for people with P.T.S.D. who are frequently angry or anxious behind the wheel....
Read the whole article at Back From War, Fear and Danger Fill Driver’s Seat.

Now, what does that mean for lawyers?
According to Mark Heiderbrach of The TASA Group, in figuring out legal responsibilities in an accident, one thing to look out for are factors that distract the driver from the task of driving correctly. Experts on "driver distraction" have a whole host of things to consider, but the possible role of PTSD may need to be added.
If you're representing a veteran in an auto accident case - or if you're a veteran who does not WANT to be in an auto accident - see "Driver Distraction: The Human Factor Element" - An Free On-Demand CLE, then add in what you learned from the NYT article. Let's hope you don't have to use it.

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