How to Drive Safely at Home After Combat Duty


A service member driving a car

After you return home, you may find yourself driving as though you are still in a war zone. It's totally understandable. After all, in a combat zone you develop aggressive driving skills designed to keep you safe in hostile surroundings.

But the driving habits that kept you safe under threat can be dangerous to you and others now that you're home. Reduce the risk of injury to yourself and others by retraining yourself to drive in normal conditions.

Offensive vs. defensive driving

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The best kind of driver is a predictable driver. When a car in the left lane has its right blinker on, you know that driver is trying to merge into your lane, right? We rely on that kind of predictability to make it home every day.

When you're in combat, though, being unpredictable is what might get you home safely. That kind of driving is considered offensive and could net you a traffic ticket or cause you to hurt someone. Here are some old habits to kick:

  • Cruising right down the middle of the road, or going off-road
  • Driving unpredictably — speeding up and slowing down, changing lanes suddenly
  • Speeding through intersections by running red lights or stop signs
  • Tailgating or matching another driver's actions, such as lane changes or speeding
  • Swerving unexpectedly to avoid common road objects, such as trash or road kill, or around road repairs

 

Now that you're home, it's important to be a defensive driver. Let's find out what it takes to be a defensive driver:

  • Refresh yourself on your state's driving laws by getting the driver's handbook from the Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Be courteous with pedestrians, bicyclists and other drivers who share the road with you
  • Avoid road rage — it's not worth ruining your day
  • Make sure you're always at least three seconds behind the car in front of youStick to the speed limitPut your phone down and drive. That phone call or text can wait
  • Always use your seatbelt, and make sure passengers buckle up, too
  • If you drink alcohol, do so responsibly and never drink and drive — arrange for a designated driver ahead of time or get a taxi

Other issues that raise driving risk

Distraction or physical impairment can affect your driving and put you or others in danger. If you or someone you know is having problems, seek professional help. Watch out for these signs:

  • Excessive risk-taking, such as driving at high speeds. It's fairly common for returning service members to seek substitutes for the adrenaline rush experienced in combat
  • Emotional reactions related to returning home, such as depression or relationship problems
  • Alcohol or drug abuse

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