For years now, automobile accidents have been the number one noncombat-related cause of death for American veterans. That is no longer true. According to the Pentagon's Medical Surveillance Monthly Report, which was released recently, over the past 2 years, more veterans have committed suicide, than have died in automobile accidents.
Between 2005 and 2011, the proportion of suicides increased substantially, while the proportion of veteran deaths due to automobile accidents decreased sharply. In fact, in 2010 and 2011, more veterans were killed as a result of suicides, than transportation accidents. In 2011, suicides accounted for one out of every 4 veteran deaths from noncombat causes. The problem is much worse than it seems. The statistics show that in 2012 approximately one veteran committed suicide every day.
For years, the profile of the average young American vet corresponded with an increased risk of death in an auto accident. Members of the military are young, male, and high school educated, and that matches the profile of civilian accident victims too. Overall, young males are much more likely to be killed in an accident, regardless of whether they are civilians or military members.
However, the military has been focusing on safe driving campaigns, and that may have contributed to a reduced accident fatality rate among veterans. At the same time, the number of suicides involving veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan has spiked considerably.