Navigating today’s roads can be challenging for all drivers, but military veterans face particular challenges behind the wheel. Studies have shown that veterans are more likely to be involved in car crashes than other drivers.
In fact, traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for military personnel in their first year after returning home from war.
Reviewing the driving records of tens of thousands of troops, USAA discovered that service members were involved in at-fault accidents 13 percent more frequently after deployments. Although it’s not clear why veterans are more prone to accidents than their non-military peers, most experts agree that it has to do with stress and trauma they experienced while deployed.
As a “salute” to veterans, here are six tips for safer driving.
• S: Seat belts save thousands of lives each year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), properly worn seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger occupants by 45 percent. Wear your seat belt at all times, even during short trips to the grocery store or doctor’s office.
• A: Adverse weather can be challenging to maneuver. During or after rainfall, be sure to slow down and increase your following distance. In the fall months, be extra cautious of fallen leaves after rainfall, as they can present slippery and dangerous driving conditions. Avoid puddles, as the water can obscure your vision, impair your brakes and cause you to hydroplane and lose control of your vehicle.
• L: Lose the distractions. Distracted driving, which consists of anything that takes your hands off the steering wheel, your eyes off the road or your mind off the task at hand, contributes to almost 8,000 vehicle crashes each day, according to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Avoid talking on your cell phone — even with a hands-free headset — as well as texting, eating, adjusting the radio and other distracting activities.
• U: Understand new car technology, like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning systems, rearview or backup camera, and blind spot detection systems. New car technology isn’t just hip — it’s saving lives. And even cooler than the technologies themselves is the fact that they’re no longer reserved for luxury-car owners. Consumer demand for new safety features is so high that many mainstream manufacturers have made (or will be making) them available on more moderately priced vehicles. When shopping for your next car, consider buying a vehicle with these features.
• T: A three-second following distance will help you spot possible driving hazards and give you time to react. For instance, if your car is traveling at 60 mph, in three seconds your vehicle will have traveled more than 250 feet — that’s just under the length of a football field. To achieve the three-second spacing between you and the car ahead of you, when that car passes a landmark, such as a tree or an exit sign, start counting. If you pass the same spot before you count to three, you’re driving too close to the other car.
• E: Enroll in the AARP Driver Safety course to brush up on your behind-the-wheel skills. It’s a great way to assess your own driving, learn new regulations, and feel more confident on the road. Plus, the November classroom course is free to all current and former military personnel and their families, regardless of age!
The free course is available by downloading a coupon at www.aarp.org/veterans. The coupon must be presented to the host organization or the volunteer instructor at the time of registration or payment.
With courses offered in communities throughout South Dakota, veterans should have little difficulty finding a class that’s conveniently located. But classes are limited in size and fill up quickly; registrations will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
In Huron, an AARP Driver Safety Course will be offered at noon Nov. 17 in the Huron Area Senior Center Fireside Room, 290 Seventh St. S.W.
To register please call 352-8291 or 350-5266.
As an alternative to the classroom course, veterans and their families are invited to take the AARP Driver Safety online course at 50 percent off the normal course price. Online participants will learn the same valuable tips and information from the classroom course, but they can take it at their own pace from their home.
For the online course discount, visit www.aarpdriversafety.org and enter the promotion code “Veterans” during registration and checkout. The promotion code is valid through Nov. 30. Participants will have 60 days to complete the online course.
Julie Lee, Vice President and National Director of AARP Driver Safety, has more than 30 years experience in management, strategic planning, transportation and safety. With AARP for over eight years, Lee directs the largest driver improvement course designed for drivers age 50 and older.For the complete article see the 11-08-2012 issue.
Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 11-08-2012 paper.