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Research Letter
April 11, 2012

Road Crash Fatalities on US Income Tax Days

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Dr Redelmeier; dar@ices.on.ca); and Evaluative Clinical Sciences Program, Sunnybrook Research Institute, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Mr Yarnell).

JAMA. 2012;307(14):1486-1488. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.450

To the Editor: US income tax day occurs yearly around April 15 and is a stressful deadline for millions of US adults. Tax payments influence the long-term health of the economy, but no study has tested how tax deadlines might affect the immediate health of individuals. We investigated the number of individuals involved in a fatal road crash on tax day under the prespecified hypothesis that stressful deadlines might increase the risk of road trauma by impairing drivers or by compromising surrounding individuals from making compensatory adjustments.1

We retrieved tax deadline data from the Internal Revenue Service and fatal road crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the past 3 decades (1980-2009). We used the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, a validated database that included all crashes involving a motor vehicle on public roadways in which at least 1 person died within 30 days (including passengers, pedestrians, or other involved individuals).2 For each tax day, we identified controls as the day 1 week before and 1 week after to evaluate the number of individuals involved in a fatal road crash. This design controlled for year, month, and weekday as well as minimized bias from differences in vehicle technology, gasoline prices, health care access, driver training, and other confounders.

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