Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live


VA's Safe Driving Initiative Scoffed by Thrill-Seeking Young War Vets

The fact that young American veterans are five times more likely to die in motorcycle accidents than men and women their same age who don't go to war, as reported by Aaron Glantz of the Bay Citizen and New American Media, has not been addressed in any substantive way by the Veterans Administration.

Oh, sure, the VA has a website urging returning active duty and veterans to "drive safely." On that site's home page, it even acknowledges that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in veterans in the early years after returning from deployment. But nowhere does it say anything about why this trend is really occurring or how we can stop it.

The VA's best idea? Its so-called Safe Driving Initiative, for which they've recruited legendary race car driver Richard Petty to make appearances around the country to discuss driving safety with veterans. As Petty puts it on the VA's safe driving website, 'Ya'll got home safe, so drive safe, and stay safe."


Despite the VA and Petty's good intentions, if recent statistics are any indication, the initiative isn't working. And that's because the real problem isn't being addressed. The issue is the rush that so many young veterans get in combat and continue to crave and try to duplicate at home by driving at such dangerously high speeds. Nowhere on the VA website does it even mention this or acknowledge the psychological aspects of this scary phenomenon or ways to address it.

The VA's initiative is somewhat reminiscent of Nancy Reagan's 'Just Say No' to drugs campaign, which radical Abbie Hoffmann once said was "the equivalent of telling manic depressives to 'just cheer up'." In other words, it just doesn't work. Most young veterans I've talked to today about it just chuckle. "The VA isn't dealing with the real issue here, the whole adrenaline thing," suggests Tristan Dyer, 29, a former Army Staff Sgt who did a one-year tour of Iraq in 2004-2005 and has since left the Army and graduated from college.

"When I got back from Iraq in 2005," Dyer says, "I bought a motorcycle, and I admit that going really fast and leaning into those turns did give me the same kind of rush I felt when I was in Iraq. But unlike some of my buddies, I eventually settled down."

After dodging IED's and being in firefights, driving a motorcycle at a high speed doesn't seem so crazy, says Dyer: "The thing is, when you first come back from the war, you are still resigned to the possibility that you can die at any time. I had a close friend who when he got back from the war bought a ridiculously fast Honda (motorcycle). Then he became a firefighter, and he died fighting his first fire. He was a high-risk character who needed that rush, I guess. It was tragic, but not surprising. You can only cheat death so many times."

Dyer suggests that the same type of thing happened to Vietnam veterans. "When those guys came home from combat a lot of them went out and bought those Mach One Mustangs, which were really fast," he says. "And then they'd go out on the highway and crash them."