18940Study shows traffic fatalities increase on election days
- Oct 1, 2008An interesting study reported on by CBC today:
Driving deaths spike on election days: studyLast Updated: Tuesday,
September 30, 2008 | 5:50 PM ET Comments23Recommend12CBC News
Drivers and pedestrians face an increased risk of deadly motor vehicle
collisions on election days, researchers reported Wednesday.
The researchers thought voting day might result in more collisions,
since between 50 to 55 per cent of the U.S. population may head out to
cast a ballot, many in vehicles.
To test the idea, Dr. Donald Redelmeier of the department of medicine
at the University of Toronto and his co-author analyzed national data
of fatal crashes for polling hours of all presidential elections from
Jimmy Carter's in 1976 to George W. Bush in 2004. For each election,
the same hours on the Tuesday immediately before and after were used
as a control.
Extrapolating the findings to Canada, he estimated that the Oct. 14
federal election would lead to two or three additional deaths and 70
to 80 more people with debilitating injuries across the country, all
caused by motor vehicle collisions.
"It's remarkably consistent across different regions and years and
whether or not a Republican or Democrat gets elected," Redelmeier said.
The higher election-day death rates, which occurred even among
pedestrians, showed how bad driving habits are risky but could be
prevented by changing driving behaviour, he added.
The eight election days accounted for 1,265 individuals who were
involved in fatal crashes — the equivalent to 158 per day or 13 per
hour, Redelmeier and Robert Tibshirani of the department of health
research and policy at Stanford University said in Wednesday's issue
of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The 16 control days accounted for 2,152 individuals killed in
collisions — the equivalent to 134 per day or 11 per hour, the
The findings translate to 1.18 times higher risk on election days, or
on absolute increase of 189 individuals over the study period, or 24
more people being killed and about another 800 being seriously injured
on election day.
"The increased risk of fatal motor vehicle crashes on presidential
election days exceeds the risk on Super Bowl Sundays," the pair
concluded. Redelmeie's previous research suggest the football event
accounted for an average seven extra deaths each year.
"Overall, the findings suggest the need for safety reminders to
electioneers who encourage people to get out to vote."
Increased traffic could explain the increased risk, but the
researchers said other factors may contribute, such as:
• Increases in average speed.
• Poor attention to the road by distracted drivers.
• Rerouting to unfamiliar routes.
• Poorer enforcement by police.
• Mobilizing unfit drivers.
Poor attention and distraction may be a factor, agreed traffic safety
manager George Smith of the Canada Safety Council. Some drivers may
make last-minute voting decisions while behind the wheel, he said,
commenting on the study.
Subsidizing public transit, placing polls within walking distances,
adopting tamper-proof remote voting or increasing traffic enforcement
could help, along with standard advice to use seatbelts, avoid
speeding, abstaining from alcohol and minimizing distractions, the
One main limitation of the study is that the database left out
information on speed and alcohol, so the researchers weren't able to
tell whether these made a difference.
The research was supported by the Canada Research Chair in Medical
Decision Sciences, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the
National Institutes of Health Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium and
the patient safety service of Toronto's Sunnybrook Health Sciences
With files from the Canadian Press
Montreal QC Canada