The Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s Center for Transportation Safety (CTS) is investigating the reasons why two distinct population groups — Hispanics and U.S. military personnel — are experiencing above-average crash rates.
Each is a separate research initiative, and both projects are just getting underway as researchers gather crash data and begin looking for clues.
“We have seen significant reductions in crashes and traffic deaths overall,” CTS Director John Mounce explains. “However, some groups have not been included in these vast improvements. We’ve found two areas that I strongly believe we should investigate further.”
A March 2011 article in the military publication Medical Surveillance Monthly Report caught the attention of CTS researchers. In it, crash data over an 11-year period was examined.
Citing the study, the article, entitled “Motorcycle and Other Motor Vehicle Accident-related Deaths, U.S. Armed Forces, 1999-2010,” stated: “Motor vehicle accidents (MVA) are the leading cause of deaths of U.S. military members during peacetime. During the four years prior to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, one-third of all deaths of service members were caused by MVAs. Since the beginning of those operations, there have been nearly as many deaths of service members due to ‘transportation accidents’ as war related injuries.”
The article reported that more than four thousand active-duty service members died in crashes during that period, with motorcycle deaths accounting for 24 percent of the fatalities.
“This is obviously a problem that not many people have thought about,” Senior Research Engineer Russell Henk says. “As the article points out, many of the crash victims are young, high school-educated, single males — characteristics that could be associated with a higher risk of dying in crashes.”
Henk says that he needs to dig deeper into the military crash rate issue, but already has some ideas about approaching the problem. He points out that the Center is well positioned to tackle the issue of impairment, motorcycle safety and the dangers of younger drivers based on its previous work.
Henk, who is also the director of TTI’s Teens in the Driver Seat (TDS) program, says elements of the successful high school-targeted driver safety program could be applied to the military crash-rate problem.
“TDS uses a peer-to-peer approach with students, who conduct the program and spread safety messages among fellow students. I can foresee that same approach being replicated in a military setting,” he says.
In exploring the CTS military initiative, contacts have been made with the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University, Ft. Hood in Killeen and with military officials in San Antonio, where Henk is based.
Read about the Center’s Hispanic initiative.