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Fatal car accidents rise 6 percent on Income Tax Day: study

Michael Santo's picture

Nothing is certain except death and taxes, and on Income Tax Day, statistics say that death, at least from car crashes, becomes more certain.

Researchers led by Dr. Donald Redelmeier of the University of Toronto examined 30 years of automobile crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The study compared the number of fatal car accidents occurring on Income Tax Day (April 15 or whatever weekday that incomes tax returns are due to be filed) to data one week before and one week after. The results were that the risk of a fatal crash rises 6 percent on Income Tax Day.

It's not a huge increase, but it's an increase nonetheless. In terms of raw numbers, 19,541 people were involved in fatal accidents on the 30 Income Tax Days studied, which was 404 more than on the non-tax days.

Exactly why there is a difference was not made clear by the study. Dr. Redelmeier theorized that the deadline and stress are contributing factors. He said, “Stressful deadlines lead to driver distraction and short-term human error. Other reasons could include sleep deprivation, inadvertent distractions and less tolerance towards hassles on tax day.”

You might file your taxes early, and still be under considerable stress. Dr. Redelmeier added, “Who looks to tax day in a joyful way? Even those who are getting refunds are stressed. Refunds are never as big as they thought and there is always the chance they could be reviewed [audited] at a later date."

Even if you feel relatively stress free on Income Tax Day, you are not immune to the increase, because of the fact that accidents are not always single-car. It's the same reasoning that could be applied to texting while driving. We've seen some people say they don't want those types of laws, because they are, say, fighter pilots perfectly capable of multitasking.

Experts say that maybe the fighter pilot is capable of doing so, but that doesn't mean the person in the next lane is, and that person could come over and slam into the fighter pilot's car. It would seem to be common sense, wouldn't it?

The researchers noted that more study into the true causes of the increased fatal accident risk needs to be done. This study really just establishes a correlation rather than a causation. In the meantime, they wrote, "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."

The research was published in the April 10 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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