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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

JAMA: Fatal Car Accidents Increase 6% on Tax Day

JAMAJournal of the American Medical Association: Road Crash Fatalities on US Income Tax Days:

US income tax day occurs yearly around April 15 and is a stressful deadline for millions of US adults. Tax payments influence the long-term health of the economy, but no study has tested how tax deadlines might affect the immediate health of individuals. We investigated the number of individuals involved in a fatal road crash on tax day under the prespecified hypothesis that stressful deadlines might increase the risk of road trauma by impairing drivers or by compromising surrounding individuals from making compensatory adjustments. ...

A total of 19 541 individuals were involved in a fatal road crash during the 30 tax days and 60 control days. The modal person was a young adult man driving in a rural location. Comparisons of tax days with control days yielded an odds ratio of 1.06, equivalent to an absolute increase of 404 individuals in fatal road crashes on tax days over the study interval or about 13 individuals during the average tax day. ...

Tax days are associated with an increase in fatal crash risk, which is similar in magnitude to the increase in crashes on Super Bowl Sunday. One explanation is that stressful deadlines distract drivers and contribute to human error (a national poll suggested that tax day was the second most stressful day in 2011). Another might be alcohol, yet we found no accentuation during night hours when alcohol consumption may be more frequent Driving patterns may be altered on tax day. Although electronic submissions might be expected to lessen driving on tax day, we observed an increase rather than a decrease in fatal crashes in recent decades. Additional reasons might include sleep deprivation, inadvertent inattention, and less tolerance of hassles. Because this study lacked data on alcohol, stress, or driving patterns, future studies should evaluate the reasons for the increased risk as well as potential opportunities for intervention. In the interim, public health campaigns should reinforce the importance of road safety on tax day, including emphasizing the need to wear seatbelts, avoid alcohol, reduce excessive speed, and minimize distractions.

(Hat Tip: Jim Maule, Bill Turnier.)

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