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Maybe this next report will help you avoid a surprise in November. There is new research that shows that the risk of car crashes goes up on presidential election days. NPR's Patti Neighmond reports on research in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
PATTI NEIGHMOND: Dr. Donald Redelmeier is an internist at the largest trauma center in Toronto, Canada. He sees lots of victims from car crashes, so he thinks a lot about cars and driving. That coupled with his own experience rushing to fit voting into a busy schedule made him want to look more closely at how all this rushing might affect safety on the roads on voting day.
Dr. DONALD REDELMEIER (Professor of Medicine, University of Toronto; Trauma Center Internist): We studied all U.S. presidential elections for the last 32 years beginning with Jimmy Carter in 1976 and ending with George Bush in 2004.
NEIGHMOND: Redelmeier studied the U.S. in particular because he says the U.S. keeps the best crash statistics. He compared Election Day to the Tuesdays before and after and found an increase of 18 percent in motor vehicle deaths on voting day.
Dr. REDELMEIER: This equaled about 24 people per election, was remarkably consistent across different locations and years.
NEIGHMOND: Redelmeier also found about 800 more people suffered disabling injuries as a result of the crashes. These injuries and deaths far outnumber those reported during times when people might be drinking and driving, on Super Bowl Sundays, for example, and on New Year's Eve. But unlike on those days, Redelmeier says, alcohol didn't seem to be an issue on voting day. There was no increase in crashes in the evening when people might be more likely to drink. It may just be that on voting day, he says, emotions run high.
Dr. REDELMEIER: There's an election going on. Everybody's talking about it. And everybody's paying attention to the polls when they maybe should be paying a little bit more attention to their driving.
NEIGHMOND: In the end, Redelmeier can't say exactly why people crash. 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. On top of that, Redelmeier says, there may be less police presence on voting days to monitor that speeding.
Dr. REDELMEIER: Simply because the police are busy themselves voting. And secondly a crackdown on motorists is a public relations loser, simply because it comes across as the authorities interfering with the democratic process.
NEIGHMOND: Leonard Evans is a longtime traffic safety researcher. He says part of the problem with car crashes in general is the American mindset when it comes to car safety.
Mr. LEONARD EVANS (Traffic Safety Researcher): When I talk to random people and they discover that I do traffic safety, the reaction is very, very likely to be something about tires, air bags, what vehicle is safest.
NEIGHMOND: While these are important, Evans says, they pale compared to the real culprits in traffic accidents: drivers. Drivers who sometimes work hard to get around the law.
Mr. EVANS: Here in Michigan, as in most U.S. states, you can buy a radar speed detector. The one and only purpose of a radar speed detector is to assist people to behave in such a way as to threaten the lives of other people on the road.
NEIGHMOND: So the take-home message for American voters this Election Day: Keep your eye on the road, and slow down. Patti Neighmond, NPR News.