AMERICAN soldiers who survive Iraq and Afghanistan are dying in record numbers on roads in the United States, driving at speed and ignoring standard safety precautions because of a newfound sense of invincibility. The latest figures show a 41 per cent increase in the deaths of servicemen in accidents involving cars and motorcycles, compared with the average for the past three years.
For veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, driving at speed becomes like a drug — “the newest crack out there”, one staff sergeant told USA Today. Eighty-three soldiers have died in private-vehicle crashes in the US since October 1. Many were fresh from the battlefield, determined to have fun, live fast and sustain the rush of survival, army safety experts said.
During the same period, 22 soldiers have died in motorcycle accidents, about three times the typical rate for the whole year, according to J. T. Coleman, the spokesman for the Army Combat Readiness Centre, a government agency that collects crash statistics. It is so concerned that it has told recruits to report future journeys by road to their supervisors, who may order them to rethink their plans.
Gail Tipp’s son, Robert, 20, died on March 26, three days after he returned from Iraq, as he sped around a bend in Texas on an all-terrain vehicle. Mr Tipp, who was not wearing a helmet, sustained massive head injuries when he hit the pavement after losing control of his vehicle.
“He thought that nothing could hurt him,” his father said.