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Returning California veterans face risk of fatal auto accidents

The last several years have proven to be stressful for military personnel and their loved ones. In addition to the hardships created by frequent, lengthy deployments, many veterans have faced challenges when returning home. Recently, reports have uncovered a disturbing trend: A disproportionate number of Marines have died on California highways since 2007.

The Associated Press indicates that 28 off-duty Marines from the Twentynine Palms military base have died in car crashes since 2007. Of those fatalities, 12 have occurred on the same highway.

Revelations about fatal motor vehicle accidents in Southern California falls in line with statistics from earlier studies. According to the Center for Naval Analyses, Marines who return from deployment are 60 percent more likely to die in a car crash.

Given that this trend is coming to light in a very tragic way, many people might be wondering: Why is this happening?

Some observers have connected the risks of battle to behavior on the road. If a person has experienced a near-death situation while serving in the military, he or she may discount the everyday risks of driving.

Another issue identified in at least one-third of the recent crashes is alcohol. Of course, certain drivers might overestimate their ability to drive safely after a night out with friends.

Now that this danger is identified, the hope is that solutions emerge. It may be worthwhile to examine if outside parties have contributed in some way to these incidents. For example, establishments that serve alcohol to military personnel might not be doing enough to prevent overconsumption. After all, providing alcohol to someone who is already impaired could increase the risk of a subsequent accident.

Source: Associated Press, "Report: California Marines Dying in Car Crashes," March 24, 2014

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