U.S. motorists will be more prone to fatal crashes while driving today, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The study, which evaluated road safety information for the entire United States from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for 30 years (1980 through 2009), examined the number of fatal crashes on each tax deadline day throughout that time period, and to control for prevailing risks, studied results from the same weekday one week before and after.

Conducted by Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and led by researcher Dr. Donald Redelmeier, professor of medicine at Sunnybrook (Canada's largest trauma centre) and colleague Christopher Yarnell from the University of Toronto, the study results revealed a total of 19,541 individuals involved in fatal crashes during the 30 tax days and 60 control days.

The 30 tax days accounted for 6,783 individuals, equivalent to 226 per day. In contrast, the researchers found a total of 12,758 individuals involved in crashes during the 60 control days, equivalent to 213 per day, said the report.

The researchers concluded that the risk of fatal crashes was 6 percent higher on income tax deadline day and equal to an absolute increase of 404 deaths over the study or about 13 individuals for the average tax day.

The bulk of increases in risk with tax deadlines took place during the last twenty years and were primarily related to working age adults under age of 65. The increased risk on tax day included passengers and pedestrians and extended across different regions, daylight hours, demographic groups and alcohol consumption.

“The increased risk could be the result of stressful deadlines leading to driver distraction and human error. Other possibilities might be more driving, sleep deprivation, lack of attention, and less tolerance toward hassles. Another contributor could be decreased law enforcement as the police, themselves, might be busy with their own tax deadlines,” said Redelmeier.

The increased risk of fatal crashes on tax deadline days imparts a substantial cost to society, added Redelmeier. “In theory, the net losses equate to about $40 million in societal costs that could mathematically negate the income tax payments of about 5,000 average Americans each year.”

The study was supported by the Canada Research Chair in Medical Decision Science and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The results of the study are published in the April 11, 2012 issue of JAMA.

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