Driving on Tuesday Election Day may be hazardous to your health, so says NPR's health policy correspondent Patti Neighmond.
A new report by Dr. Donald Redelmeier in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates all of the rushing associated with our Election Day, smack in the middle of the work week, increases the likelihood of disabling or fatal accidents.
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.
It may just be that emotions run high on voting day, he says. "There's an election going on -- everybody's talking about it, paying attention to polls when maybe they should be paying more attention to driving."
In the end, Redelmeier can't say exactly why people crashed. He thinks they may have been speeding, trying to fit voting into hectic schedules. Research has already shown speeding significantly increases the risk of car accidents and deaths.
So the message for American voters on Election Day is this: Keep your eye on the road -- and slow down.
How's this for an alternate message? Maybe we should vote on the weekend or a National Holiday, when Americans aren't as pressed for time.
Don't know why we vote on Tuesday? Click here for the answer, and to find out what Barack Obama and John McCain think about Tuesday voting.
Car under American flag photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr.
Why Tuesday? is an effort to make America's democracy stronger through increased voter participation; we work to make election reform an issue that our politicians cannot afford to avoid. Read more campaign coverage from OffTheBus by clicking here.