Tax-induced stress could lead to more car crash fatalities

Many Chicago residents were likely relieved to see Tax Day pass this last Tuesday. The months and weeks of pouring over returns and then sending them off to the government can be the root of a great deal of stress. According to some researchers, that stress could be the cause of a jump in car accidents on Tax Day, a phenomenon that the researchers observed over a period of 30 years.

Beginning in 1980, the researchers compared the number of car crash deaths that occurred on Tax Day to the number recorded on days that fell a week later and a week prior. After analyzing three decades of data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the researchers discovered a small, but noticeable increase in traffic fatalities on the filing deadline.

Of course, the data do not pinpoint the reason for the rise in car accident deaths, but researchers offered a few explanations. Other days that experience a spike in fatalities, such as July 4 and Super Bowl Sunday, are known for corresponding above normal traffic levels. Congestion can lead to collisions, so this may be a plausible theory.

But the researchers pointed out that the Internal Revenue Service introduced electronic filing in 1986, which, as taxpayers used it more frequently, would have reduced the number of people rushing to their local post office. The advent of electronic filing had no discernable effect on crash deaths, however.

That led researchers to suppose that the overall stress associated with the day–which can occur regardless of how people file their returns–could cause drivers to become distracted. Drivers should always take care to focus their attention squarely on the road. The families of those who are killed in car accidents have a right to seek compensation for the loss of their loved one.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “Study shows deadly car accidents increase on Tax Day,” April 10, 2012.