A full moon may spell extra danger for motorcyclists

Crash-caused distractions can be temporary. Researchers decided to examine whether full moons could be linked to motorcyclists’ deaths, as they can cause major distractions and occur approximately 12 times per year.

Donald Redelmeier (a professor at the University of Toronto’s Department of Medicine) explained that “gazing at the full moon can take the motorcyclist’s eyes off the road, which may result in a loss of command.” He added that a motorcycle ride is much more dangerous than one that’s being driven by a drunk driver who has no seatbelt, even though they are traveling the same distance. He said, “Because this, we recommend riders or drivers orientate their attention, ignore distractions and continuously monitor their dynamic environment.”

The study analyzed data from just over 13,000 motorcycle deaths that occurred between 1975 and 2014. There were 4,494 fatal motorcycle crashes on nights with a full Moon, and 8,535 that occurred on nights without a complete moon. This translated to 9.1 fatalities on nights with a full Moon and 8.6 on nights without a full moon. According to the BMJ report published Dec. 11, there was an additional fatal crash for every two nights with a full moon. Redelmeier stated that, “While these numbers might seem small on the surface,” they were quite significant. “All these deaths could have been prevented if there had been a small change in our behavior,” Redelmeier said.

Redelmeirer, a Princeton University colleague, and Eldar Shafir, a Princeton University researcher, found similar patterns in data from Australia, Great Britain, and Canada. A middle-aged man was the typical victim, riding a bike in rural areas with a big engine on a streetbike. The majority of the victims were in a head-on collision and only a quarter were wearing helmets, according to researchers. Supermoon nights are the most dangerous. This is when the full moon appears brighter and larger than regular full moons. 65 supermoon evenings saw 703 deaths, which is 10.8 per supermoon. There were approximately two deaths for every supermoon evening.

Researchers noted that this observational study cannot be used to draw firm conclusions about cause and effect. Other distractions and traffic hazards were not taken into consideration. They said that their findings highlighted the need to be attentive when riding a motorcycle and extra care during full moons. Redelmeirer stated in news releases from Princeton University and the BMJ that “Additional strategies while cycling might include wearing a helmet and activating headlights. Nearly 5,000 Americans are killed each year in motorcycle accidents in America. According to the study, these fatalities account for nearly 75% of road traffic deaths. They also cost society $6 billion to $12 billion.

Updated 01/24/22