Full moon ‘affects motorcycle rider safety’

Ride the night away moon

Fatal motorcycle crashes increase 5% during a full moon and 32% during the annual supermoon, according to research published today (December 11, 2017) in the British Medical Journal.

Riders should be particularly wary in 2018 as there will be two super moons: on January 2 and another just a few weeks later on January 31.

The statistical study titled, The full moon and motorcycle related mortality: population based double control study, includes data from Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada.

Read our tips on becoming a better night rider.

Warning of risks

While the researchers confirm the observational data cannot prove any firm conclusions, they warn of the risks of seemingly minor distractions, urging constant attention while riding or driving.

Study co-author Eldar Shafir says the study “adds to the literature that small distractions can sometimes lead to life-altering consequences”. Eldar is a Professor in Behavioral Science and Public Policy and professor of psychology and public affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Lead author Donald Redelmeier, professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto says a full moon could be a distraction for a rider.

“Glancing at the full moon takes the motorcyclist’s gaze off the road, which could result in a loss of control,” he says.FULL MOON night riding

“The average ride on a motorcycle is more dangerous than a drunk driver with no seatbelt traveling the same distance. Because of this, we recommend riders and drivers orient their attention, ignore distractions, and continuously monitor their dynamic surroundings.”

Moon draws attention

The authors claim that people’s attention may be naturally drawn to a full moon, potentially contributing to fatal motorcycle crashes.

To test their hypothesis, they analysed data from the official United States registry of motor vehicle crashes from 1975 to 2014, during which time 494 full moons and 65 supermoons appeared. They calculated the number of fatal crashes on full moon nights compared with nights with a quarter moon (one week before and after the full moon).

The researchers defined a full moon as the one night each month when the entire facing surface of the moon was illuminated. They also included the rare occasions in which two full moons appeared in the same month. They studied the 16 hours of night from 4pm to 8am over 40 consecutive years.

They found 4994 fatal crashes occurred on the nights with a full moon, which is equal to 9.10 crashes per night. In contrast, a total of 8.64 fatal crashes per night occurred on nights without a full moon.

Fatalities increased further under a supermoon, amounting to a total of 703 fatal crashes, or 10.82 fatal crashes per night. This means that for every two full moon nights, there was one additional fatal crash. Under the supermoon, this increased to two additional deaths.

Overall, there was a total increase of 226 additional fatal crashes on nights with a full moon during the entire study period.

“While these figures might seem low on the surface, they are quite significant,” Donald says. “All of these deaths could have been prevented completely by small differences in behaviour.”

Typical rider

The typical motorcyclist was a middle-aged man riding a street bike with a large engine in a rural location, who experienced a head-on front impact. Less than half were wearing a helmet. Seventy-three percent of the crashes occurred during the hours before midnight, and 27% after midnight.

The researchers repeated their analyses in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia and found similar results.Harley-Davidson Street Rod Singapore traffic congestion night motorcycles moon

The researchers highlight the limitations of the study. For example, other distractions and traffic hazards were not taken into account, and neither were factors including the prevailing weather or moon visibility. And while they used large datasets, like any routinely collected data, errors could have been made when the data was entered.

Nevertheless, the study’s findings highlight the importance of safe, careful and attentive driving, under all conditions.

“We encourage motorcycle riders to wear a helmet, activate headlights, scan the road surface and be wary of other vehicles,” Donald says.

“The best approach to safe driving is reducing as many distractions as possible and keeping alert behind the wheel.

“That’s good advice for all the rest of us who don’t ride motorcycles, too,” Eldar says.

The project was supported by the Canada Research Chairs Program, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

10 Comments

  1. Being one of those middle aged men with a large capacity road bike and living in the country I find that when I do need to ride at night I am often the only vehicle on the road. The only thing I’m likely to hit or hit me is Skippy or one of his/her friends.

  2. The full moon affects everyone’s mood. Has done forever. Just ask the police and emergency departments. All those Werewolf tales and dogs howling at the moon didn’t come about by accident.

    Then there’s the coral spawning on the Barrier Reef. Full moon each September. (Oh wait … I’ve just heard that little tiny wall calendars have been discovered lying about on the sand next day …)

    Definitely affects me. In fact I’m much more likely to indulge in a spot of nude riding on a warm summer night under a full moon. 😀 Ooops. …

  3. If looking up to look at the full moon is being cited as a possible contributing factor then glancing down to ‘constantly’ check speed can not be ignored either!

  4. If more bikes were on the road during a full moon, you’d expect more accidents.
    Quite plausible this would occur.
    Brief read of the study, couldn’t see anywhere this was accounted for.

    Accidents caused by gazing at the moon, yeah, sure.
    Guaranteed to generate lots of hits on Google 🙂
    Probably eating green cheese.

    Study also says
    “The average ride on a motorcycle is more dangerous than a drunk driver with no seatbelt traveling the same distance.”
    OK. In the interests of safety I’ll drive a car when drunk rather than ride a bike totally sober.
    &
    “. . . we recommend riders and drivers orient their attention, ignore distractions, and continuously monitor their dynamic surroundings.”
    Babbling.

    ” Less than half were wearing a helmet. Seventy-three percent of the crashes occurred during the hours before midnight, and 27% after midnight.
    The researchers repeated their analyses in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia and found similar results.”
    Really?
    Less than half the victims in UK & Australia were wearing a helmet?

    Someone’s been gazing at the moon too long.

  5. So banal… “the study’s findings highlight the importance of safe, careful and attentive driving, under all conditions.” (Wow!)
    “We encourage motorcycle riders to wear a helmet, activate headlights, scan the road surface and be wary of other vehicles” …
    Oh REALLY…

  6. Kind of flys in the face of the hospital admissions myth, where statistics proved that full moon admissions do not increase during a full moon.

  7. A good example of statistical fluke. /?/ or the werewolves stepping out in front of speeding motorbikes? or the vampires ? or …….

  8. Me thinks the tide has risen in the water on their brains.
    The number one reason for more deaths is idiots mistaking a bike headlight for the moon and doing something stupid among the millions of other stupid things people do during a full moon.

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