Since I drive around a lot on Election Day -- moving from precinct to precinct, visiting each of Charlottesville's eight polling places, plus the Central Absentee Precinct and the Office of Voter Registration and Elections -- it was a shock to find. out that the most recent scientific studies show that Election Day is hazardous for drivers.
According to HealthDay News:
Driving or walking to the polls on Election Day is a longstanding political tradition in the United States, but new research suggests it might be more dangerous than you think.Reporting on the study, Patti Neighmond of NPR interviewed the study's principal author, Dr. Donald Redelmeier of the University of Toronto, for Morning Edition:
After crunching traffic fatality numbers, researchers discovered that Americans were about 18 percent more likely to die in accidents during polling hours on presidential election days than on other Tuesdays.
The increased risk is greater than it is on New Year's Eve or Super Bowl Sunday, the Canadian researchers added.
"We studied all the U.S. presidential elections over the last 32 years, beginning with Jimmy Carter in 1976 and ending with George Bush in 2004," he says of the research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.An extract of Redelmeier's original article can be found on JAMA's website; subscribers can see the full article.
Redelmeier studied the U.S. in particular, he says, because this country maintains excellent statistics on vehicle crashes, noting exactly what time of day, when, where, vehicle, type and other information. He compared the number of crashes, injuries and deaths on Election Day Tuesday to the Tuesdays before and after.
His research revealed an 18 percent increase in motor vehicle deaths on voting day. "This equaled about 24 people [deaths] per election," Redelmeier says, adding that "this was remarkably consistent across different locations and years."
Redelmeier also found that about 800 more people suffered disabling injuries as a result of the crashes. These injuries and deaths far outnumber those reported during times associated with an increase in drinking and driving, such as Super Bowl Sunday and New Year's Eve. Unlike on those days, Redelmeier says, alcohol didn't seem to be an issue on voting day. And the crash rate didn't increase in the evening, when people might be more likely to drink.