Death & taxes: Odds of a fatal car crash increase on Tax Day

Fatal car crashes more likely on Tax Day
U.S. Department of the Treasury Internal Revenue Service 1040 Individual Income Tax forms. Tax Day often sees a spike in fatal car crashes, according to the Journal of the American Medical Assn.
(Daniel Acker / Bloomberg)

Feeling stressed because you waited until the last minute to file taxes? Making that rare trip to the post office to send off the return? Be careful, warns the Journal of the American Medical Assn.: The chances of getting into a fatal car accident jump 6% on Tax Day.

It’s not quite clear why, though authors of Wednesday’s report postulate that “stressful deadlines distract drivers and contribute to human error.” Lack of sleep, limited patience and even higher alcohol levels (perhaps a result of taxpayers trying to wrap their heads around the U.S.’s notoriously complicated tax documents?) may be factors as well.

That’s death and taxes for you.

The study, led by Dr. Donald A. Redelmeier of the University of Toronto, considered data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and found that over the past 30 years, 6,783 people were involved in fatal auto accidents on April 15. That works out to an average of 226 people a day, or 13 more than exactly one week before or after Tax Day.


This year, filings are due April 17.

The increasing popularity of electronic filing doesn’t seem to reverse the spike in day-of accidents (a phenomenon which also tends to occur on Super Bowl Sunday), according to the study. If anything, there have been more fatal crashes during the decades when the electronic option was available.

Though many taxpayers start preparing early for the process – with more than 53 million visiting tax-related Web pages in February, according to Nielsen – a good chunk still wait until the last minute to actually file.

And some fun (well, as fun as taxes can be) facts from tax preparer H&R Block: 30.6% of taxpayers say they’ll do their own tax filing, a process which takes an average of 23 hours. The rest usually opt to go with a professional service, which costs an average of $200.



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