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The New PTSD Symptom For Vets: Anxiety And Reckless Driving

Anxiety about driving is a new symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among combat veterans, according to a recent story in The New York Times.

Unfortunately, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan conjure up memories of their tours when they come home to the States and get behind the wheel. Driving can be dangerous under the best of circumstances, but consider what U.S. military veterans have to cope with.

Take the case outlined by The Times, that of Californian Susan Max, who served in Iraq. She didn’t want to park in any lot that didn’t have an easy escape route. At times she drive over the middle line in a road, The Times reported, because back on the war front there were sometimes bombs buried on the side of the road. 

She isn’t alone in these  experiences. Roadside bombs were a constant peril for the military who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. And that’s why doctors and psychologists are increasingly characterizing bad, dangerous driving as related to PTSD.

The problem is severe enough that insurance companies, the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs are all doing research on the relation of combat experience and aggressive driving. And they are trying to find ways to help veterans overcome their fears about driving.

In fact, Max is involved in a trial to develop techniques to allay the anxieties of vets while they’re behind the wheel. She drove around in a special car equipped with gear to measure her vital signs — such as her breathing and heart rate — along with a driving rehabilitation specialist, according to The Times.

When she started to get very nervous, he had her pull over and gave her time to relax and calm down.

Another issue regarding reckless driving and vets is that these former soldiers may be unconsciously applying the driving tactics they used in Iraq back here in the states, The Times reported, for example, that vets may run stop signs because they are used to speeding up when they come to intersections, where they were vulnerable to gunfire when in combat.    

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