Saturday, March 19, 2005
Humvees and trucks crashing at twice the normal rate
According to Gregg Zoroya of USA Today,
In the past four full months, the numbers of serious vehicle accidents and fatalities in Iraq have more than doubled from the previous four months, records provided by the Army show. In the first 10 weeks of this year, 14 soldiers were killed in accidents involving Humvees or trucks. All but one died in rollovers. If that rate continues, the number of soldiers killed in such accidents this year would be almost double the 39 soldiers killed in 2004. Detailed records involving Marines were not available.
And the Army can't figure out why—
The Army is trying to determine whether the dramatic increase in the number of Humvees in use in Iraq - or an increase in the amount of miles they are being driven - might explain the higher number of accidents. It also is questioning whether the handling and center of gravity in Humvees may have been altered by armor plating bolted on in Iraq or shields added around gun turrets.
Adding to the mystery is that many of the rollover accidents involve the newest generation of factory-produced armored Humvees, vehicles thoroughly tested by the Army and with an even lower center of gravity than those without armor plating.
While they get this latest wrinkle ironed out, the Army is planning to install better seatbelts and offer a supplemental driving course.
I hate to suggest anything like a cover-up in these numbers but deaths from vehicle accidents have plagued the Army since early in the war as have suggestions that some of the accidents aren't accidents. As one reader pointed out in response to a July 2003 article by Gregg Mitchell in E&P—
One important point [Mitchell] failed to mention is that it has been widely reported by troops in the field that the reason there have been so many vehicle accidents is that, in an effort to avoid being ambushed, the soldiers drive too fast. In fact, I heard a report that in at least two incidents, soldiers killed in car accidents were actually fleeing hostile fire. These are clearly combat deaths, not accidents.