Traffic Fatalities Linked to Terrorism

Article excerpt

For terrorists looking to generate as many casualties as possible, a new study may provide welcome news: Fatal traffic accidents increase, at least temporarily, following terror attacks.

In an effort to partially gauge people's responses to terrorism, Hebrew University sociologist Guy Stecklov and Princeton University population researcher Joshua Goldstein analyzed traffic accidents in a country that experiences a significant amount of terrorist incidents: Israel.

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The authors examined traffic patterns and accident statistics from January 2001 through June 2002 and were surprised by the results. "We found a day-three increase of twenty-seven percent in traffic fatalities for all terror incidents," Stecklov said.

They also discovered that attack severity played a role, with traffic fatalities on the third day following what Stecklov and Goldstein termed "large terror incidents" showing an increase of more than two-thirds the normal rate.

Four days or more after terror attacks, the number of accidents returned to normal levels, suggesting that terrorism affects the general population in unique ways. "Whereas prior studies have focused on subjective reports of post-traumatic stress, our study shows a population-level behavioral response to violent terror attacks," Goldstein said.

The researchers attributed the increase in fatal accidents to psychological stress, generally considered to be a factor in aggressive driving. …