Taxes Lead To Stress Which Leads To Fatal Wrecks

Death and taxes may be connected in ways Ben Franklin couldn't have imagined. Researchers found a six percent increase in fatal auto accidents on the day federal taxes are due. The most likely culprit: stress.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Some other news: Tax day is rapidly approaching, and it turns out that day can hazardous to your heath.

As NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports, researchers found a rise in fatal auto accidents on the day taxes are due.

WENDY KAUFMAN, BYLINE: Back in 1789, Ben Franklin wrote: Nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes. He couldn't possibly have foreseen the linkage reported in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association: 6 percent more people than usual are killed on the roads on tax day.

Donald Redelmeier of the University of Toronto, the study's lead author, says there's been a lot of speculation that stress contributes to auto accidents, but the effect was hard to measure. So the trauma physician decided to look at the number of fatalities on what he thought would be a high-stress day.

DONALD REDELMEIER: Almost no person looks forward to tax day as a joyous event.

KAUFMAN: And when Redelmeier compared the number of fatalities on that day with other days in April, he saw a higher number.

REDELMEIER: One explanation is that stressful deadlines lead to driver distraction and increased human error.

KAUFMAN: While driving might be more dangerous on the day taxes are due, driving overall is much safer than it used to be.

Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says the absolute number of U.S. highway fatalities has fallen about 40 percent in the past three decades.

RUSS RADER: And that coincides with both the increase in safety belt use and safer vehicle designs.

KAUFMAN: Still, if you want to be super cautious, file early or electronically and then stay off the road next Tuesday.

Wendy Kaufman, NPR News.

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