The fear of meeting ones demise on a country road back home while texting Sweet Thang to see if she wants whole-wheat pasta or the regular kind pales in comparison to ducking incoming missiles and tiptoeing around IEDs, right?
So whos surprised to hear that texting and driving is a serious problem among members of our military?
No one should be. A recent survey and report by the United Services Automobile Association shows that military members are just as likely as civilians to text and drive, and officers are more likely to do it than anyone else, even teenage girls.
What is surprising in the survey of 903 members of all five military branches, though, is that those service members who have been sent into combat are less likely to engage in the dangerous practice than those who havent been to war.
Hmmph. Wouldnt you think that the people fighting our war and yes, despite what you see or, more accurately, dont see, on the evening news, were still fighting a war would develop a certain fatalism, if not indifference, to danger?
Think again, said Joel Camarano, assistant vice president of property and casualty underwriting for the USAA. Camarano said, That was a pleasant, unexpected finding, that those who have been deployed especially those whove been deployed multiple times tend not to exhibit this dangerous behavior.
Some of the military members surveyed were from Fort Bragg. Those members whove been deployed are less likely to endanger everyone else on the road by texting and driving by a margin of 39 percent to 53 percent. Officers are more likely to do it.
Oy. Put the phone down, general.
Camarano said, We did not dig deeper to try to understand why returning, battle-tested men and women are more likely to keep their cellphones holstered until they stop driving, but he has theories. First, he surmised, perhaps those who have been deployed were able to break themselves of the habit because for long periods they didnt have access to a phone or a car.
In addition, when youre overseas, especially in a combat zone, a hostile environment, he said, youre really forced to (concentrate on) the task at hand. Youre not worried about whats going on with your cellphone. Your life depends upon being vigilant.
Great theories, both, but I have one, too.
Maybe, just maybe, those soldiers whove returned safely from the shadow of the valley of death develop a greater appreciation for life and feel less inclined to tempt fate even further. Gen. George S. Patton, one of the nations most highly decorated officers, survived numerous battles, including the Battle of the Bulge and the Allied Invasion of Sicily. He died of injuries sustained in a jeep accident months after the war ended while going to hunt pheasant.
The USAA report and study, Camarano said, wasnt conducted so any group, especially not service members, could be singled out for scorn. He said USAA, which was started to provide auto insurance for veterans who couldnt get insurance, is concerned about the safety of our members and their families. Weve created a website called www.itcanwait.usaa.com, which has information on the dangers more importantly, he said, the website encourages USAAs members and the general public to take a pledge to refrain from texting and driving.
Swell idea, dont you think? To those who take the pledge and maintain it, we salute you, whether youre in the military or not.
To those who insist upon driving with your attention divided between that cell phone and that hurtling piece of steel machinery youre putatively in control of, we salute you, too.
But not with the whole hand.
Put down the phone and drive.
Saunders: 919-836-2811 or firstname.lastname@example.org