BEDFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) For service men and women returning home from deployment, one of the last things that might be on their mind is driving. But studies show they are actually 75 percent more likely to die in motor vehicle accidents than civilians.
Virginia State Police is working to change that through a program called “Safety at Sea”. The program sends a trooper overseas to discuss highway safety with Navy sailors coming off deployment.
Lennox Vu is a Navy Veteran living in Lynchburg who says this program is essential for sailors. During his six years of service, he was deployed twice.
“We load bombs on to the carrier and we launch them off,” said Vu describing his work. “The F-18 pilot brings the bomb to where the enemy is. Where ISIS is.”
That was a normal day for Vu, loading bombs onto planes and fighting ISIS. So when he had to transition back home, the most common things were difficult. For instance, getting behind the wheel again.
“A lot of emotion is behind that wheel,” said Vu.
Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for service members returning home. Safety at Sea, dating back to 1971, works to educate and inform sailors to prevent the numbers from growing.
Senior Trooper Jay Wheat, stationed out of Bedford, spent two weeks on a Navy carrier speaking to over 4,000 Virginia active duty sailors about highway safety.
Wheat took a break from his daily routine and instead talked about speeding and wearing your seatbelt.
"The things that we might take for granted, but if you've been…detached from your family and love ones for 6-7 months... It's different,” said Wheat.
Many sailors told Trooper Wheat they feel invincible when they are driving after deployment.
“Make you feel like you have control of everything. You have control of your life, of where you want to go. So you're not just on a ship and floating and have no control of it,” said Vu.
State Police are hoping this program will keep the veterans educated and safe.
“They’ve done a lot for this country and we want to do what we can for them,” said Wheat.