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Voting Can Be Bad For You

Today we'll step away from what presidents past have done and make a prediction about voters' future — some of you won't make it out of election day alive.

That's not a reflection on the choices being made, although feel free to work up your own snarky rejoinder. That's a stone cold fact, according to a pair of researchers looking at car crashes on election day.

"We thought efforts that mobilize about 55 percent of the population to vote, along with U.S. reliance on motor vehicle travel, might result in increased fatal motor vehicle crashes during U.S. presidential elections," Donald Redelmeier, lead investigator of the study and staff physician at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, was quoted in a release. "Indeed, we found a significant increase in traffic deaths on election days."

And for once, the results are nonpartisan and extend to pedestrians.

Redelmeier and Stanford's Robert Tibshirani looked at every U.S. presidential election day — polling hours only — since Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford in 1976. As controls, they also looked at the same time on the Tuesday before and the Tuesday after. Their marquee finding was that the average election sees about 24 additional deaths and 800 additional serious injuries from motor vehicle crashes — exceeding the risk seen on Super Bowl Sundays and New Year's Eve.


The authors suggested factors like speed ("A 4 percent increase in average driving speed would be sufficient by itself to account for the 18 percent observed increase in fatal motor vehicle crashes," Redelmeier said), distance, distraction, emotions, driving to an unfamiliar place to vote and, as a release from Sunnybrook phrased it, "the potential mobilization of unfit drivers." (And we thought those types were already poll workers ...)

Given that we now know voting should come with hazard pay, the authors suggest implementing subsidized public transportation on election day, more voting centers that voters can walk to, remote voting or more traffic cops out on election day.

The results of the study are published in today's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.