Helping GIs shift gears

drivingMembers of the armed forces serving in war zones take tremendous risks, even when just driving down a street. Because of various threats, service men and women develop driving habits such as running stop signs and swerving wide for any irregularity on the road.

But back home, driving habits that may have saved their lives can put them, and the lives and safety of others, at risk. To help service members returning from deployment readjust, University of Minnesota researcher Erica Stern studies
 the driving behaviors that many soldiers bring home and suggests ways to help them change those habits.

Stern served as a faculty fellow in the Rehabilitation and Reintegration Division of the Office of The Surgeon General of the Army, where she surveyed the driving behaviors of 150 regional National Guard members who had returned from overseas deployments and 49 never-deployed military members.

Based on the survey results, one group of her advisees researched ideas for interventions and another used these ideas to draft self-help brochures, one for service members with driving issues and another for their families.

In following the progress of returnees across three months, the researchers found that driving behaviors gradually lessened and largely disappeared during that time, although anecdotes indicated that some specific behaviors could persist for 12 months or more. As for driving anxiety, it persisted at a higher level for returnees than for the nondeployed even after 90 days.

Since completing the regional study, Stern has been carrying out a national survey funded by the Department of Defense comparing the driving behaviors of soldiers who returned from deployment injury-free and soldiers who returned with a traumatic brain injury to a control group that has never been deployed. The data is still coming in.

Read the full article in the December issue of Catalyst.

Adapted from a UMNews article by Deane Morrison.

Posted in Safety, Transportation research

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