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Voting could be hazardous so be careful — study urges

Voting could be hazardous so be careful — study urges

Posted: Thursday, October 2, 2008 10:40 pm
By: AP

  By LINDSEY TANNER

AP Medical Writer

CHICAGO (AP) — Could voting for president be hazardous to your health?

An analysis of Election Day traffic deaths dating back to Jimmy Carter’s 1976 win suggests yes, but the authors say that’s no reason not to go to the polls.

The study found that on average, 24 more people died in car crashes during voting hours on presidential election days than on other October and November Tuesdays. That amounts to an 18 percent increased risk of death. And compared with non-election days, an additional 800 people suffered disabling injuries.

The results were pretty consistent on all eight presidential Election Days that were analyzed, up to George W. Bush’s victory over John Kerry in 2004.

“This is one of the most off-the-wall things I’ve ever read, but the science is good,” said Roy Lucke, senior scientist at Northwestern University’s Center for Public Safety. He was not involved in the study, which appears in Wednesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

Rushing to get to polling places before or after work, driving on unfamiliar routes, and being distracted by thinking about the candidates were among possible reasons cited by the study’s Canadian researchers.

So why would a couple of Canucks want to examine this troubling aspect of Yankee voting habits?

Apparently not out of any across-the-border sense of smugness.

Co-author Dr. Donald Redelmeier, a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, said Canada would probably have similar results. Even though it’s less populous, Canada typically has a higher voter turnout than America, he said.

Redelmeier said he and co-researcher Robert Tibshirani, now at Stanford University, were partly motivated out of concern about public health implications of traffic accidents. They claim about 1 million deaths worldwide each year, including about 41,059 last year in the United States, which has one of the highest traffic death rates among industrialized countries.

Other analyses have found traffic deaths go up when more people are on the road, as during summer months, or during festive times when alcohol use increases, including Super Bowl Sunday and winter holidays, said Ellen Martin, a spokeswoman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Published in The Messenger 10.02.08

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