The April 17 deadline to file income tax returns could pose risks to more than just your wallet: A new study finds that fatal car crashes spike on Tax Day, possibly because of stressful deadlines that cause some taxpayers to drive carelessly.
Writing in JAMA, researchers led by the University of Toronto's Donald Redelmeier examined a U.S. database of fatal traffic accidents between 1980 and 2009. They found:
- That an average of 226 fatal accidents took place on the day taxes were due;
- That an average of just 213 crashes occurred on the same day a week prior and a week following the deadline.
- Taken together, the researchers calculated an overall increase of 404 vehicular fatalities nationwide since 1980, or an additional 13 deaths per Tax Day.
Redelmeier said the research confirms that "stressful deadlines lead to driver distraction and human error," adding that nearly "all of these crashes could have been totally avoided by a small change in driver behavior." He also noted that the risk of getting in a crash increases during any period of heightened stress.
Redelmeier acknowledged that the study did not account for confounding factors like alcohol, stress, or driving patterns, and called for future research to determine these risks and possible interventions. He also cautioned public safety campaigns geared toward Tax Day that stress the need for seat belts, avoiding excessive speed, and minimizing driving distractions (Dotinga, HealthDay, 4/10; Bankhead, MedPageToday, 4/10).