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Tax Day May Drive Up Fatal Crash Rates
Date:4/11/2012

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 10 (HealthDay News) -- The upcoming income tax filing deadline might be taxing in more ways than one for Americans: A new study suggests that fatal crashes jump on Tax Day, possibly as a result of last-minute filers carelessly rushing to the post office to mail their returns.

The study's lead author said the research indicates that "stressful deadlines lead to driver distraction and human error."

"Almost all of these crashes could have been totally avoided by a small change in driver behavior. An awareness of this risk could lead to better road safety," said Dr. Donald A. Redelmeier, a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.

But others who study traffic said it's hard to understand what the findings mean since other possibilities, such as more cars on the road, rather than lots of people too revved up to pay attention, could drive up crash statistics on Uncle Sam's big pay day.

"The problem with announcing that any one day has a greater-than-normal number of traffic crashes is that often, when adjusted for the higher number of travelers, the crash rate isn't actually higher than a typical weekend day," said Tom Vanderbilt, author of the book "Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)."

For the new study, published in the April 11 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Redelmeier and a colleague examined a database of fatal U.S. traffic accidents from 1980 to 2009. They looked specifically at crashes on the date taxes were due and the same day the week before and the week after.

While the federal government's typical filing deadline is April 15, it falls on Tuesday, April 17, this year.

Although the risk of dying on Tax Day is extremely small, it's a bit higher than on the other days. The researchers found an average of 226 fatal accidents on annual tax-due days compared to 213
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