The motorcycle community is paying attention to the new research. The motorcycle community is paying attention to the new research. The motorcycle community is paying attention to the new research. (Photo: Kekyalyaynen / Shutterstock)

A Princeton motorcycle crash study yields an out-of-this-world discovery

New research shows an uptick in fatal crashes on nights when there's a full moon.

Distracted driving comes in many forms, but the end result is the same: more crashes.

These distractions aren't all a consequence of the Digital Age. A new study shows that an age-old natural phenomenon might be a culprit in this disturbing trend.

Scientists from the U.S., Israel, the U.K., Canada and Australia found that on full moon nights, fatal motorcycle crashes hit their peak. They discovered this by studying data from the official U.S. registry of motorcycle crashes from 1975 to 2014.

jerusalem moon The "supermoon," as seen from Jerusalem. (Photo: ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock)

"Drivers face a number of distractions behind the wheel – from texting, to phone calls to road obstructions and more,” said study co-author Eldar Shafir, an Israeli-American professor at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. “Our study adds to the literature that small distractions can sometimes lead to life-altering consequences.”

The supermoon rises over a highway near Yangon on December 3, 2017. The lunar phenomenon occurs when a full moon is at its closest point to earth. What does a full moon have to do with accidents? (Photo: Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images)

It's important to note that the research, published this week in the British Medical Journal, did not conclude that the appearance of a full moon is causing more crashes. Rather, it's simply an observational link. Shafir and his collaborator, lead study author Donald Redelmeier, did offer some possible explanations.

"Glancing at the full moon takes the motorcyclist’s gaze off the road, which could result in a loss of control,” said Redelmeier, professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto.

He also explained that a full moon could be causing drivers – both motorcycle and automobile – to misjudge distance and speed because of altered lighting.


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