Study: Car Accidents Jump 35% After Terror Attacks

There is a 35 percent rise in the number of people killed in road accidents three days after a terror attack, compared to an average day. Three days after particularly deadly terror attacks, in which 10 or more people are killed, there is a dramatic jump of almost 70 percent in road accident deaths.

This data comes from the first-ever study examining the relationship between car accidents and terror attacks in Israel.

The study was conducted by Dr. Guy Stecklov from the new demographics division within the department of anthropology and sociology at the Hebrew University, in cooperation with Dr. Joshua Goldstein of Princeton University. The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).

Stecklov said the study's goal was to examine whether or not there was a connection between terrorism and societal reactions and, if so, how these reactions were expressed.

"What is special about Israel, to our great regret, is that terrorism here is not rare and this allows us to ask how a society in such a situation reacts," Stecklov said. "We know that after a terror attack there is a drop in the number of people who go out to restaurants ... We thought than an examination of the connection between traffic accidents and terrorism might shed light on the behavior that we don't see as being influenced by terrorism - both as a society and on an individual level."

Analyzing data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, the researchers examined whether there was an increase or decrease in the number of road deaths following terror attacks. They also examined separately the effects of particularly major terror attacks, in which 10 or more people were killed.

On the day of a terror attack and the following day there is no marked change in road deaths compared to an average day, on which 1.3 people are killed in road accidents.

"There is no immediate reaction to a terror attack," Stecklov explained. "The reaction only comes a number of days later."

Thus, three days following an attack there is a rise of some 35 percent in the number of people killed in road accidents compared to an average day.

The societal reaction following a particularly serious terror attack is astounding. While there is a drop in road deaths the day after a particularly seriously attack, three days after such an attack there is a rise of 69 percent in road deaths.

At this point Stecklov and Goldstein only have assumptions based on other sociological and psychological explanations.

"One possible explanation is that after an attack we all behave more carefully and politely. After two days of restraint, there is a converse response and the aggression we have bottled up breaks out on the road," Stecklov said.

But he also offered a second astounding explanation. "It is possible that this is the response of the society to violent events. Studies released in the 1980s found that three days after a character committed suicide in a television series, there was a wave of suicides and a rise in road accidents and light plane accidents. This is known as `suicidal mimicry,'" Stecklov said. "Other studies found that after boxing match, there are rises in the number of murders in the United States."