Objectives: Our objective was to describe fatal motor vehicle crashes (MVC) among veterans of the 1991 Gulf War era and to compare the distribution of crash and individual characteristics between those deployed to the Gulf War (GWV) and those not deployed (NDV).
Methods: We compared individual characteristics, crash mechanisms, and crash circumstances between 765 GWV and 553 NDV who died from MVC within the first five years of the war, between May 1991 and December 1995.
Results: Overall, GWV and NDV who died from a MVC were more likely to be enlisted males (97%), 21-30 years old (72%), have a high school education or less (91%), drive a passenger car (52%), and not use restraints (60%). The overall annual rate of motor vehicle fatalities for GWV (23.6 per 100,000; 95% confidence interval: 21.9-25.3) was significantly greater than the rate for NDV (15.9, 95% CI: 14.6-17.3). GWV with the highest motor vehicle fatality rates include males (24.8, 95% CI: 23.0-26.6), 17-20 year olds (105.0, 95% CI: 78.2-138.1), and those not married (27.3, 95% CI: 25.1-30.1). Adjusting for differences in age distribution across GWV and NDV did not account for the difference in rates. Characteristics of MVC fatalities that were over-represented among GWV include serving as regular active duty (p = 0.001), having a high school education or less (p = 0.01), being involved in a single-vehicle crash (p = 0.008), and dying within the first hour following the crash (p = 0.004). Also, we identified a greater proportion of alcohol-related crashes among GWV during the late night and early morning hours.
Conclusions: The highest rates of motor vehicle fatality among young, single males in the military mirror the experience of the general population. Further research is necessary to determine modifiable risk factors that can be targeted for specific interventions and whether the elevated late night alcohol-related crash rate among GWV is an effect of deployment or an inherent population bias among those selected for operational deployments.