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Starting in January, U.S. Army Europe soldiers younger than 27 will have to undergo advanced driver safety training, according to Installation Management Command-Europe.

The mandatory class, called the Advanced Driver’s Course, is the latest in a series of lessons intended to cut down on traffic accidents, which claimed the lives of 130 off-duty soldiers across the Army in fiscal 2008, according to the Army’s Combat Readiness/Safety Center.

Like the Intermediate Driver’s Course, which debuted in 2007, the advanced course targets those 26 and younger because, statistically, they have a "much higher incidence of traffic accidents, injuries and fatalities," Patricia Jackson, an IMCOM-Europe safety and occupational health specialist, wrote in an e-mail response to questions. "After 26 years of age, these numbers drop dramatically."

Statistics from the combat readiness center "show that Soldiers are five to six times as likely to die in traffic accidents in their POVs (personally owned vehicles) in comparison to when they are downrange," according to Jackson.

Since Oct. 1, 21 soldiers have died and one soldier was disabled in vehicle accidents while off duty, according to statistics from the Army’s Combat Readiness/Safety Center Web site. During the same time, one soldier died in an accident involving a combat vehicle and four other soldiers died in nontactical Army vehicles.

While none of those deaths occurred in Europe, three soldiers died in personal vehicle crashes on the continent in 2008, and four died in 2007, according to U.S. Army Europe.

Despite the intermediate-level training, the number of soldiers killed in accidents while driving personal cars and motorcycles climbed 13 percent across the Army in fiscal 2008 after declining the previous two years, according to Army data.

However, the number of serious accidents in which soldiers were either killed or injured so badly they couldn’t return to duty declined more than 7 percent in fiscal 2008.

Ideally, soldiers will take the Advanced Driver’s Course between 12 and 18 months after completing the intermediate-level course, according to an IMCOM-Europe news release.

While the new course recaps some material soldiers learned earlier, there is some new material.

Soldiers will learn to apply countermeasures, assess driving threats and keep their vehicles at peak performance, Jackson wrote.

"Additionally, the course makes students aware of specific dangers applying to their type of vehicle, for example, high centers of gravity in SUVs," she wrote.

The advanced course consists of 60 minutes of instruction, a video presentation and discussion session.

The Intermediate Driver’s Course, which is also offered across U.S. Army Europe, is a prerequisite.

Soldiers take the Introductory Driver’s Course during initial entry training.

See more information on the Army Traffic Safety Training Program, including class times and locations, here.

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