My interest kindled by his blog, I’ve been reading Tom Vanderbilt’s book “Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do (And What It Says About Us.” It’s a fascinating quasi-anthropological study of the role of the automobile in our everyday lives. The book touches on a number of subjects, from road rage to city planning. But of greatest interest to most personal injury lawyers is his analysis of some of the surprising risk factors that play into many car accidents. Passengers would be wise to heed Vanderbilt’s advice: “Don’t drive in a pick-up truck with a beer-drinking divorced doctor on Super Bowl Sunday.”
Why shun doctors? They seem like a responsible lot; why are they at a greater risk of being involved in a car accident? The researchers don’t know for sure. Some possible theories include: 75 percent of doctors are male (and males are more likely to be involved in car accidents than women); doctors spend a lot of time driving in urban areas, dispensing advice via cell phone; and, last but not least, doctors may be more fatigued than the average driver (a New England Journal of Medicine study showed that interns working an extended shift are ten percent more likely to be involved in a car accident on their way home).
The Super Bowl Sunday risk factor is a famous result that was actually discovered by a doctor – Stanford researcher Donald A. Redelmeier – who was profiled in The New York Times last week for his quirky but illuminating public health research. Dr. Redelmeier’s findings that car accident fatalities spike by forty-one percent on Super Bowl Sunday prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to launch a program aimed at getting fans to stay off the road. Before the game on Super Bowl Sunday, the roads are as safe as any other time. During the game, there are actually fewer car accidents than normal because so many people are off the road, watching the game. But after the game (twenty times more beer is consumed on Super Bowl Sunday than a typical Sunday), the number of car accidents goes through the roof. Fans of the losing team – who perhaps were drowning their sorrows in alcohol (or who perhaps left the party right after the game, rather than staying to celebrate and thereby sobering up) – are much more likely to be involved in a Super Bowl Sunday car accident than fans of the winning team.
Divorce or a recent separation is linked with a fourfold increase in car crashes. The reasons for this are murky. But the research is consistent with other research showing that the never-married are much more likely to be in a car accident than the married-with-children. Having children makes you more likely to buckle up and more likely to drive cautiously (especially while the children are in the car).
Pickup trucks are another surprising car accident risk factor. More pickup truck drivers die per 100 million registered vehicles than any other style of car. Given pickup trucks’ size, you’d think that pickup truck drivers would be among the least likely to die in a car accident. But research has shown that a car’s size is of almost no importance when the car or truck collides with a fixed barrier like a tree or a bridge support. Some of the risk of pickup trucks may be connected to the fact that far more men than women drive pickups and men are much more likely to be involved in a car accident. Men also are much less likely to wear a seatbelt. Beyond those possible contributing factors, statisticians have a hard time sussing out why pickups are so dangerous.
So, whatever the reasons, don’t drive with a divorced doctor in a pick-up truck on Super Bowl Sunday.
This blog is maintained by the Boston car accident lawyers at The Law Office of Alan H. Crede, P.C. It does not contain legal advice nor should you construe it as offering legal advice in legal claims that you may have.