The full moon and motorcycle related mortality: population based double control study

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To test whether a full moon contributes to motorcycle related deaths.

DESIGN

Population based, individual level, double control, cross sectional analysis.

SETTING

Nighttime (4 pm to 8 am), United States.

PARTICIPANTS

13 029 motorcycle fatalities throughout the United States, 1975 to 2014 (40 years).

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE

Motorcycle fatalities during a full moon.

RESULTS

13 029 motorcyclists were in fatal crashes during 1482 relevant nights. The typical motorcyclist was a middle aged man (mean age 32 years) riding a street motorcycle with a large engine in a rural location who experienced a head-on frontal impact and was not wearing a helmet. 4494 fatal crashes occurred on the 494 nights with a full moon (9.10/night) and 8535 on the 988 control nights without a full moon (8.64/night). Comparisons yielded a relative risk of 1.05 associated with the full moon (95% confidence interval 1.02 to 1.09, P=0.005), a conditional odds ratio of 1.26 (95% confidence interval 1.17 to 1.37, P<0.001), and an absolute increase of 226 additional deaths over the study interval. The increase extended to diverse types of motorcyclists, vehicles, and crashes; was accentuated during a supermoon; and replicated in analyses from the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.

CONCLUSION

The full moon is associated with an increased risk of fatal motorcycle crashes, although potential confounders cannot be excluded. An awareness of the risk might encourage motorcyclists to ride with extra care during a full moon and, more generally, to appreciate the power of seemingly minor distractions at all times.

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