Troops returning from active duty are much more likely to have
car accidents, says car insurer USAA, which insures only military
service members and their families.
The company's just-released "Returning Warriors" study looked at
driving records before and after 171,000 deployments from 2006 to
2010. The results:
- Overall at-fault accident rates were 13 percent higher in the
six months after the service members returned than in the six
months before they deployed.
- Accident rates for enlisted men rose 22 percent, while rates
for officers increased just 3.5 percent. Younger drivers had a
similarly dramatic increase compared with older drivers.
- Army service members showed the biggest increase in
accidents, up 25 percent. Marines had 12.5 percent more
accidents, and Navy and Air Force service members increased 3
percent and 2 percent, respectively.
- Multiple deployments made the numbers worse. Drivers
returning from a third deployment were 36 percent more likely to
have an at-fault accident, compared with a 12 percent bump in
at-fault accidents for drivers returning from first
Separately, the Office of the Surgeon General (Army) identified
behaviors that returning troops might bring with them. For example,
drivers on overseas deployment typically don't stop at traffic
lights or stop signs or for pedestrians, moving as quickly as
possible. They don't use signals and they change direction suddenly
to keep insurgents guessing. They are taught to straddle
lanes, avoiding the edges of roads and potential improvised
explosive devices (IEDs).
In fact, USAA says, "object in road" was the most-cited cause of
accidents involving service members in the United States where the
cause was reported.
War zone habits come home
University of Minnesota researcher Erica Stern has surveyed
service members about their first month of driving back in the
United States. Nearly one-third said others had told them
that they were driving dangerously.
"When they come home, they report problems speeding or being
unable to drive on highways comfortably. Soldiers also had to keep
their convoy intact, and therefore did not yield to people or
traffic," Stern said. "These are potentially lifesaving habits
during deployment but may put them in harm's way when soldiers
bring them home."
Those habits can also dramatically push up car insurance rates
for returning military. USAA is the carrier of choice for many and
the top-rated company in Insure.com's "
Best Car Insurance Companies
Despite the apparent additional risk returning troops might
pose, military service is not a profession that car insurers
penalize in their rate formulas. Almost all companies reduce rates
for cars left behind in the United States while the soldier is
overseas, and insurers such as Geico offer discounts for
active-duty personnel stateside. Parents who have newly
enlisted members on their policies typically
can get a break
None of that means insurance will be cheap when those
deployed drivers return to civilian roads, especially for the most
No matter what they do for a paycheck, young drivers have many
times more accidents than older drivers do. Even a driver with a
spotless record will pay a small fortune if male and under 25;
numerous tickets or at-fault accidents will only make the bill
what else affects
your car insurance rates.)