Eric J. Hwang, Claudia G. Peyton, David K. Kim, Kristine K. Nakama-Sato, Amy E. Noble; Postdeployment Driving Stress and Related Occupational Limitations Among Veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Am J Occup Ther 2014;68(4):386–394. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2014.011668
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Difficulty in driving after deployment has emerged as an impediment for servicemembers returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF–OEF). This study explored postdeployment driving stress and related occupational limitations using two self-report instruments: the Driver’s Stress Profile and the Driving and Occupational Limitations questionnaire. Data gathered from 103 OIF–OEF returnees confirmed that driving and related occupational issues occur postdeployment. Significant low to moderate correlations were found between postdeployment driving stress and limitations in community mobility, leisure, and social participation. The returnees who drove off base more frequently during deployment showed significantly higher levels of postdeployment driving stress than the returnees who drove off base less frequently. Moreover, the returnees who demonstrated higher levels of driving stress and occupational limitations required more time to resume normal driving postdeployment. Findings raise awareness about the need to design effective driver rehabilitation and community reintegration programs for this population.
Postdeployment driving stress can strike uninjured and undiagnosed combat veterans. Transition and reintegration programs for returning servicemembers should include holistic and individualized evaluation protocols that emphasize timely identification of postdeployment driving difficulties (e.g., driving stress, aggressive and unsafe driving) and the interplay between driving and occupational limitations.
Strategies should be implemented to minimize the adverse effects of driving difficulties on returning veterans’ valued occupations. Personal, environmental, or occupational adaptations and modifications can be considered throughout their transition and integration to civilian society.
Driver rehabilitation programs should address psychosocial issues (e.g., anger, impatience, aggressiveness) through the driving simulator and on-road evaluation and training components. A cognitive–behavioral approach can be used to enable returning veterans to first acknowledge unsafe driving and recognize the triggers, to practice coping strategies and relaxation, and finally to exercise control over risky driving behaviors and negative emotions carried over from evasive or battlefield driving tactics and experiences.
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