By Jonathan Purtle
Emotions rise high when election season rolls around every four ears. Could the culmination of this excitement and passion for political participation result in excess motor vehicle fatalities when Election Day finally arrives? A 2008 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests so.
Using data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, the researchers tested how the number of fatal motor vehicle crashes on election Tuesdays in eight years when presidents were on the ballot compared with the number of fatal motor vehicle crashes on the Tuesdays before and after Election Day. Only fatal crashes occurring during local polling hours, between 8 a.m. and 7:59 p.m., were included in the analysis.
On the election Tuesdays between 1976 (Jimmy Carter) and 2004 (George W. Bush), 1,265 people died in motor vehicle accidents while the polls were open — an average of 158 deaths per day, 13 per hour. The average for the two control Tuesdays was 134 deaths per day, 11 per hour. In other words, based on this comparison the risk of dying in a motor vehicle accident was 18 percent higher on Election Day than it was on the Tuesdays on either side. The researchers found that this increase in risk remained relatively consistent regardless of the age or sex of those involved in the accident, the location where it occurred – and, yes, whether a Democrat or a Republican won the presidency.