Tomorrow, the presidential election will be under way. It’s an exciting time in American politics, when millions of people will drive to their local polling places to rock the vote.
But with so many emotionally-charged, potentially-distracted drivers making the mad dash to vote, it’s also a risky day to be on the roads. Just how dangerous can it be? Let’s find out.
Car accidents increase on Election Day
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the likelihood of being involved in a fatal car crash increases whenever we vote in the presidential election. Researchers first analyzed Election Day car accident statistics taken during polling hours from 1976 to 2004. They then compared those stats with the preceding and following Tuesdays.
- On each of the 8 presidential election days between 1976 and 2004, an average of 158 people lost their lives in accidents per day
- On each of the Tuesdays before and after the election, an average 134 fatalities occurred per day
In other words, the risk of a deadly car accident is 18 percent higher when we head to the polls — which technically makes Election Tuesday a more dangerous day to drive than Tax Day.
What makes Election Day dangerous
Unlike other dangerous days to be on the road (New Year’s Eve, Independence Day, Labor Day, etc.), alcohol isn’t a contributing factor. So what is? While it’s impossible to say for sure, researchers cite these 3 factors as the likely culprits:
Between listening to the radio (a form of cognitive distraction) for the latest election news and tweeting, Facebooking, or texting politically-minded comments, it’s no wonder that drivers on Election Day are distracted.
As we all know, distracted driving is a major cause of car accidents. In fact, in 2010 alone, 416,000 people were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver, and more than 3,000 were killed.
Historically, presidential elections send more than half of the voting population to the polls. Though 15 percent of registered voters have already cast their ballots by mail, and 18 percent will vote before Election Day, 63 percent of the voting population is still expected to hit the roads tomorrow (the other 4 percent don’t plan on voting).
As many states deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, getting to the polls this year could be more difficult than usual in many places. So plan ahead, expect delays, and give yourself plenty of time to get there and back.
Eighteen states (plus D.C.) don’t give workers paid time off to vote, which means that many who want to cast their ballots have to do so on their own time and dime.
A time and money crunch can lead to speeding (which was a factor in 55 percent of all fatal car accidents in 2009).
Stay safe on Election Day
Whether you’re in a blue state or red, are a Republican or Democrat, please drive safely this Election Day (and thanks for voting).