On any given weekday in April, there are about 213 deaths resulting from motor vehicle accidents in the United States. But on one specific April day there are about six percent more car accident fatalities than other days. On the day income tax returns are due there are an average of 226 traffic fatalities. While this may not rank up there with intoxicated driving on New Year's Day or St. Patrick's Day, it is interesting for what it tells us about the causes behind traffic accidents.
Most people in San Francisco do a large proportion of their driving on regularly travelled routes. Commuting to work, running errands or taking kids to and from school are all likely routes that we follow almost without thinking. We know exactly where we are going, which intersections require extra caution, and just generally how traffic flows on these well travelled routes. But on tax day, suddenly a large number of drivers are all looking for a post office or drop box with a late pickup time. This is often not a common destination.
Studies show that drivers are much more likely to cause accidents when they are driving in unfamiliar terrain. This is augmented by the fact that they may be distracted by following GPS guidance or even looking at a map.
Unfamiliarity may not be the only cause of the increased risk of serious car accidents on tax day. Driving under stress or at higher than usual speeds to get to the post office in time may also be contributing factors.
Source: Yahoo News, "Study: Tax deadline day can be deadly on US roads," Lindsey Tanner, April 11, 2012